Op-Ed: Modi undercurrent seems to be getting stronger

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: “ Uparmein Modi, neechemein Naveen.” Literally translated it means Modi above and Naveen below. But laterally read it is an expression of intent to vote for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s (or BJP’s) candidates for the Lok Sabha and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s ( or Biju Janata Dal’s) candidates for the state assembly.

This appears to be the refrain of voters in large parts of Sundergarh, Sambalpur and Bargarh where a fierce battle is raging between BJP and BJD. Congress seems to be in a position to make the contest truly triangular only in Sundergarh where it has fielded veteran, George Tirkey. But even on this seat the party’s chances of victory are remote.

The contest on all these seats is, for all practical purposes, a straight duel between BJP and BJD and it is in this context that the above mentioned slogan assumes significance. The voters appear convinced about the ability of Modi to run the country. He seems to be heads and shoulders above Rahul Gandhi, his immediate rival for the job of Prime Minister.

The Balakot airstrike, the visuals of which were splashed across TV screens throughout the country, has, no doubt, added to the stature of Modi. He is being seen as a strong leader who does not shirk from taking tough decisions and has no hesitation giving the armed forces a free hand where required. The Balakot airstrike whipped up nationalistic passions across the country with Modi’s chest thumping adding to his appeal, especially among the young voters.

But it is not just that. People are also appreciating many other qualities of the Prime Minister, for example the firmness with which he backs his decisions. Demonetization is being cited as an example. “ He did it to expose the black money business and he succeeded. He did not backtrack in the face of criticism. This country needs a leader like him,” said a young collegian near Bonai in Sundergarh. Though coming from a family of traditional Congress supporters he has made up his mind to vote for Modi’s candidate ( in this case union minister, Jual Oram) this time.

Travelling through parts of Sundergarh Lok Sabha constituency I discovered that Oram is not particularly popular among the voters. In his own native village, Kendudihi a section of people appeared to be critical of him. He was accused of not doing his bit for the development of the village and not spending enough time there during his visits to the constituency. But he need not worry as the people would still vote for the BJP as it is Modi’s party and it is important to make him the Prime Minister of the country again.

No wonder BJP’s Lok Sabha hopes in Odisha have soared. The party, which could manage just one Lok Sabha seat (Sunndergarh) in 2014 , seems set to improve its tally significantly this time. However, as far as the state assembly is concerned chief minister, Naveen Patnaik is likely to get a majority again. That is the message the voters are trying to convey through the slogan, “ uparmein Modi, neechemein Naveen.”

(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)