BJD Duck In Odisha Lok Sabha Elections Raises Eyebrows; Know The Plausible Reasons

Bhubaneswar: The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) drew a blank in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha elections in Odisha. Its rally crashed to zero from 12 in 2019. The saffron wave flattened the BJD bastions in the coastal belt. Though political commentators had said the BJP would perform better than last elections, the complete rout of the Conch party took everyone by surprise.

The BJD was also confident of retaining the MP seats in coastal Odisha. So, how was the party reduced to zero?

Here are some plausible reasons for its disappointing performance in the Lok Sabha elections:

Candidate Selection Errors

Did BJD falter in candidate selection for the 21 Lok Sabha seats? Questions were raised over the MP candidates as BJD gave tickets to eight turncoats and also put up ‘weak’ candidates in some seats. It fielded new faces – Manmath Routray, Parineeta Mishra, Abinash Samal and Santrupt Mishra – in Bhubaneswar, Bargarh, Dhenkanal and Cuttack, respectively. The biggest surprise was nomination of Lekhasri Samantsinghar, a vocal critic of BJD and its president Naveen Patnaik, from Balasore. The BJD put its bet on imported leaders despite presence of several heavyweights in the party.

Candidates Did Not Get Adequate Funds

It is being alleged that the Lok Sabha candidates were not provided with adequate funds to fight the election. There could be two reasons behind it. First, the leadership was too confident of its victory and did not want to spend party funds. Second, it was consumed with ensuring a sixth term for Naveen and could not focus on the Lok Sabha seats. The BJP with its 400-paar slogan had made its intentions clear about the 21 seats in Odisha. It had performed well in 2019 elections by winning 8 seats and was hopeful of improving its tally by wresting some seats from the BJD this time. So, there was hardly any room for complacency.

Lack Of Coordination Between Candidates

The BJD welcomed the turncoats with open arms and also rewarded them with tickets. Was the confidence that the party reposed on them reflected on the ground? Were the party leaders and workers able to accept them? Reports suggest that workers at several places failed to identify themselves with the newcomers, having seen them in the role of opposition for years. As a result, the candidates could not get the benefit of the strong BJD organisation. The votes of the Assembly candidates also did not go to the party’s Lok Sabha nominees at various places. There was lack of coordination among candidate of a Lok Sabha and those in the constituent Assembly segments amid a perceived antagonism within the party. The campaigning efforts remained blunt and uncoordinated as a united Team BJD was nowhere to be seen. Though there were 40 star campaigners for the party, no leader other than Naveen and V K Pandian campaigned for BJD candidates across the state. There was also an alleged lack of synergy between Lok Sabha candidates and the BJD leadership. This led to a split of votes and the regional party’s Assembly tally crashed to 51 from 112 in 2019 and it failed to win even a single Lok Sabha seat.

Pandian, The Minus Factor?

The BJD walked into the “Odia Ashmita” (pride) trap laid by BJP as Pandian took the centre stage, dominating the poll campaign with senior leaders sidelined. The perception that an non-Odia was singlehandedly managing affairs of a regional party and electioneering created an antipathy among people. The saffron party leaders took advantage of this emotive issue and targeted Pandian more than Naveen by levelling the former as an outsider. They further fanned the negative perception by alleging that Naveen was being held captive because of his failing health. The BJD campaign lacked the much-needed punch to counter the continuous onslaught and the last-ditch attempts towards the final phase of election came little too late. And this was widely believed to be a potential factor which deprived the regional satrap of earning the rare distinction of being India’s longest-serving chief minister.

Expensive Double Standards!

While criticising the state BJP leaders, the BJD had extended unwavering support to the Narendra Modi government at the Centre on almost all issues, including some contentious ones, on the plea that it was in the state’s interest, in the last 5 years. This created a narrative that even if BJD leaders were elected to Parliament, they would join forces with the BJP government. This perhaps made the electorate press the Lotus button while picking the Lok Sabha candidate in their constituency. Not taking a stand in Lok Sabha is said to have proved costly for the BJD.

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