Op-Ed: Staggered Polls in Odisha To Benefit All, Not Just BJP

Bhubaneswar: Polling in Odisha is going to be held in four phases perhaps for the first time in its electoral history. The decision of the Election Commission, which apparently favoured staggering the polls in the state to facilitate the deployment of central paramilitary forces in sensitive areas, has not gone down well with the non-BJP parties.

The opponents of the BJP argue that polling has been spaced in such a manner for a small state like Odisha with only 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly seats to facilitate intensive campaigning by top leaders of the party like Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Since these leaders will be campaigning for BJP candidates across the country apart from spending time in their own constituencies staggered polling in Odisha would suit them.

It is being pointed out that BJP is paying special attention to Odisha this time as the party is eyeing major gains in the state. “ The state is a key element of party’s Look East policy and BJP would like its top leaders like Prime Minister and Amit Shah to visit the state several times to optimise its gains. This is possible only if elections in the state are well spaced out. Hence there is some merit in the allegation that polls in Odisha have been deliberately staggered,” said an opposition leader.

The logic, however, is both fallacious and mischievous. For if the Prime Minister and BJP leaders like Amit Shah stand to benefit from four phase polling in the state BJD chief, Naveen Patnaik and Congress president, Rahul Gandhi gain in the same measure. They also get more time for campaigning in the state. So how is the decision tilted in favour of the BJP?

The fact of the matter is that such questions are being raised only because leaders of almost all the parties can see BJP’s prospects getting better in the state this time. There is a definite undercurrent in favour of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi whose stature as a leader has gone up in the wake of Balakot airstrike, an event still being discussed. Besides, he is seen as a leader with guts, someone who has the courage to back tough decisions. True that measures like demonetization and GST caused temporary inconvenience to a section of people but now things have more or less settled down and the leadership of Modi is being appreciated.

Equally significant is the fact that BJP is organisationally much better prepared now to take advantage of this undercurrent in favour of the Prime Minister and the party. This was not the case in 2014 when the party was both ill-prepared and ill-equipped to leverage Modi’s popularity. This time the party is in power at the Centre and wherewithal to contest elections should not be a problem for its state units. The morale of party workers and leaders is at an all time high. What is more top BJP leadership is more determined than ever to win this battle of ballots. No wonder BJP’s opponents are looking a little nervous and flinging all kinds of allegations at the party.

(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)