Will Anubhav’s ‘reel’ image take on ‘kamdar’ Jay Panda in Kendrapara

.... What unnerved BJD is party's six legislators witnessed big drop in vote shares in 2014 elections; whereas vote share of then BJD MP Baijayant Panda posted a rise of around 2 per cent

Bhubaneswar: For the high-stakes battle in Kendrapara, the strategy of BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik to cast Odia matinee idol Anubhav Mohanty opposite the former Kendrapada MP and BJP candidate Baijayant Panda bares the chinks in BJD game-plan. The BJD strategy clearly reveals that party is not keen to take any risks in Kendrapara and has, hence, played safe.

In Indian politics, the conventional thumb rule is whenever a party has no face to take on a strong candidate at the hustings, they go for a pot-boiler hero to keep the ballot box-office ringing.  BJD has done it for 2019. Sensing tough contest at hand in 2019 elections in the high-stakes battle in Kendrapara, the party virtually bowed to the star power with the hope to pull out a miracle.

However, relevance of such conventions is questionable when the rules of game in politics have undergone a paradigm change in India in 2019. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk but in a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” But BJD seems too disoriented for the important seat to follow Zuckerberg.

The pitting of cine star Anubhav Mohanty from Kendrapara reflects the caution the BJD is taking with the hope not to lose the seat. Because, it is Kendrapara that has been the laboratory of Biju Janata Dal or erstwhile Janata Dal and many towering leaders like Biju Patnaik, Rabi Ray and Srikant Jena of JP movement, who went on to occupy national political scene from Kendrapara. The Congress party has never won the Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat after 1951. The constituency has always sided with the Janata Party movement for which, Kendrapara is known as the fort of erstwhile Janata Dal or BJD. Still, the fielding of Anubhav from the seat reveals the BJD is ‘low on confidence’ here.

What unnerved BJD is, the party’s six legislators in the 2014 elections had witnessed a big drop in vote shares; whereas the vote share of then BJD MP Baijayant Panda posted a rise despite a 5-year stint since 2009.

As per an analysis of the votes polled by BJD legislators in seven assembly constituencies reveals  that the biggest drop in vote share was witnessed in Mahanga, where the sitting MLA Pratap Jena polled 49 per cent votes in 2014 vis-a-vis 56 per cent in 2009. The drop is high at around 7 per cent. Except Bed Prakash Agarwala, vote shares of other winner MLAs Kishore Tarai from Kendrapara assembly constituency and Atanu Sabyasachi from Mahakalpara had witnessed a fall of around 6 and 2 percent, respectively. BJD had even lost two seats of Aul and Rajanagar in 2014, and the vote shares of respective BJD candidates Pratap Deb and Dhruba Sahoo dipped by around 4 and 3 percent, respectively.

In contrast, the votes polled by then BJD MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda posted a rise in around 2 per cent votes. In 2009, Panda had polled around 51 per cent votes; the votes polled by Jay Panda in 2014 was around 53 per cent. This was a clear indication that then MP candidate was more popular than the party’s MLA candidates, where Naveen wave had been a ‘constant factor’ across the  constituency.

The ground scenario in 2019 drop some major hints. While the BJP had mere 10 per cent vote share in 2014, the 2017 rural polls show BJP’s vote share rose to around 33 per cent. The Congress party that had a share of around 34 per cent vote in 2014, lost around 5 per cent votes as revealed in the 2017 rural polls.

It is the arithmetic on ground that probably had signalled the BJD to go for ‘optics’ in Kendrapara polls 2019.