Op-Ed: Split Voting Puzzles Pundits

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: An important aspect of this election in Odisha has been split voting, a phenomenon which has bewildered analysts. That the voters made distinctly different choices for the Lok Sabha and the assembly in many areas is evident from the victory of BJP candidates in eight Lok Sabha constituencies while the party failed to win the same kind of voter support in the assembly elections.

While in the Lok Sabha the party made a quantum leap going up by seven seats compared to the one last time its assembly tally of 23, an increase of 13 seats was not impressive and commensurate with its Lok Sabha performance. It was particularly disappointing for the party as its national president, Amit Shah had set the state unit leaders a target of winning more than 120 assembly seats.

It is this vast gap between BJP’s Lok Sabha and assembly performance that has puzzled political pundits. In fact, in Bhubaneswar and Bargarh Lok Sabha constituencies, where BJP candidates scored sparkling victories, it was blanked out in the assembly segments falling under these seats.

Its assembly performance was dismal even in the segments falling under Bolangir and Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituencies while things were only slightly better for the party in the assembly in Balasore, Sundergarh and Sambalpur though all these Lok Sabha seats fell into BJP’s kitty. The only exception perhaps was the Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha seat where its candidates also won in five of the seven assembly segments falling under it.

What is it that made the electorate resort to split voting or, as some observers have put it, strategic voting? One explanation could be that in many areas, especially in western Odisha, which has accounted for five of BJP’s eight Lok Sabha seats, people wanted to see Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of the country but they preferred Naveen Patnaik as the chief minister of the state. They made their choice clear by pushing different buttons in the EVMs.

This makes it clear that Modi wave did work in certain areas of the state but its effect was confined only to the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP failed to take advantage of the Modi factor in the state assembly because of two major reasons, one being the lack of a strong organisational base and the other being people’s continued distrust in the party’s ability to run the state on its own.

Despite campaign like “mo booth sabuthu mazboot” its organisational network had grave shortcomings with workers failing to reach out to the people at the grassroots. BJP president, Amit Shah had emphasized this aspect repeatedly during his numerous visits to the state before the elections but this could not be achieved.

Besides as far as governance is concerned while people of the state showed tremendous confidence in Prime Minister, Narendra Modi they did not display the same kind of trust in the state BJP leaders. Rather they chose their tried and trusted leader, Naveen Patnaik who has delivered time and again.

(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.)