Op-Ed: A Mandate in Favour of Naveen and Modi

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha watchers might be bewildered by the elections results in the state. The BJP has made big gains in the Lok Sabha with its tally set to reach 7 from the 1 it had in 2014. But the voters’ enthusiasm for the party in the Lok Sabha has not been reflected in the state assembly where Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo, Naveen Patnaik seems set to return to power for a record fifth term with a brute majority.

The electorate in Odisha appear to have resorted to tactical voting, making separate choices for the Lok Sabha and the state assembly. A large swathe of voters, who wanted to see Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister but were equally strong supporters of Naveen Patnaik, pressed the EVM buttons accordingly when they went to the polling booths.

What is significant is that even the vast majority of voters, who opted for the lotus symbol in the Lok Sabha, preferred the conch in the assembly. This shows that despite a shift in favour of BJP in the Lok Sabha in certain areas the popularity of Patnaik remains, more or less, intact in the state. This is the reason the BJD is ahead of the BJP even in the Lok Sabha though its tally compared to the last elections has come down.

The claim of state BJP leaders that the party’s increased Lok Sabha tally is reflective of its growth in the state is only partially true. Had the party’s popularity actually grown in the state or had there been any significant increase in its organisational strength it would also have reflected in the assembly results which have been far from satisfactory from its point of view.

Though the saffron party has emerged as the main opposition party in the state pushing the debilitated Congress to the third place it is far behind the BJD which has bagged a brute majority yet again.

While BJP’s dream of ruling Odisha lies in tatters once again it is significant to remember that the Lok Sabha gains of the saffron party should be exclusively credited to the faith of a sizeable chunk of voters, specially the voters in western Odisha, in the leadership of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. But for the sparkling image of Modi, enhanced further by the Balakot airstrikes, BJP’s Lok Sabha tally in the state would have been much smaller. State leaders of the party had practically nothing to contribute towards this.

On the other hand the results have proved conclusively that despite the talk about so-called anti-incumbency factor the popularity of chief minister, Naveen Patnaik remains intact in the state. With his welfare programmes getting a big thumbs up from the people he has emerged as one of the most powerful regional satraps in the country, someone who can negotiate with central leaders on equal terms.

It is heartening to note that Patnaik has acknowledged the massive mandate in favour of his party with great humility reiterating his commitment to serving the people of the state. As long as he remains true to this commitment he would be hard to beat.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)