Odisha Elections 2024: Eight Reasons Why BJD Banking On Turncoats As LS Nominees

Bhubaneswar: After remaining in power for 24 years, the ruling BJD has turned to turncoats to challenge the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Odisha. Eight – Anshuman Mohanty (Kendrapada), Pradeep Majhi (Nabarangpur), Manmath Routray (Bhubaneswar), Bhrugu Baxipatra (Berhampur), Parineeta Mishra (Bargarh), Surendra Singh Bhoi (Balangir), Dhanurjay Siddu (Keonjhar) and Lekhasri Samantsinghar (Balasore) – of the 21 tickets have gone to defectors.


While Bhrugu and Lekhasri are former vice presidents of state BJP, Parineeta is the wife of Sushant Mishra, who also switched sides from the BJP to the BJD. The remaining five hopped to the regional party from the Congress. 

Here are some plausible reasons as to why the BJD, which won five state assembly elections on the trot, went for defectors with some being awarded tickets within a few hours of joining the party:

Inadequate grooming of LS candidates: Partyhoppers ostensibly meeting the winnability criterion were chosen as the BJD had not adequately prepared or projected potential MP candidates in several constituencies, including Kendrapada and Bargarh. In Bhubaneswar, it projected Srimayee Mishra for a few months but the experiment apparently didn’t impress the bosses. Consequently, it had to bank on Manmath. In Kendrapada, following the exit of two-time Kendrapada MP Baijayant Panda in 2018, actor Anubhav Mohanty was parachuted to the seat, which he won by a handsome margin in 2019. However, soon after Anubhav fell from the BJD bosses’ grace and the party had to turn to former Congress MLA Anshuman this time despite having a strong base with MLAs in all Assembly segments. In Berhampur, the party placed the bet on another actor Sidhant Mohapatra, who won two consecutive elections (2009 and 2014). After retaining the seat in 2019 with a Congress detector, the BJD went for a BJP import this time to counter a leader expelled from the party, fighting from the saffron camp.

Focus on Vidhan Sabha constituencies: With eyes on a record sixth term in office, the BJD understandably is trying to ensure its poll calculus for assembly seats doesn’t go wrong. This perhaps had led it to push turncoats to contest the parliamentary elections. In Nabarangpur, Pradeep Majhi has replaced sitting MP Ramesh Majhi, who instead has been fielded from Jharigam assembly seat, which he had represented thrice earlier (2004, 2009 and 2014). The party fielded Bhoi from Balangir Lok Sabha seat and shifted Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo to Balangir Assembly with the hope to wrest the seat back from Congress with Narasingha Mishra no longer in the fray.  Similarly, former Sambalpur MP Prasanna Acharya, whose name was doing the rounds for Bargarh Lok Sabha seat, has been nominated from Sambalpur Assembly seat. He is pitted against BJP’s Jayanarayan Mishra.  

Alliance hope led to neglect of certain MP seats: Had the talks of pre-poll alliance fructified, the BJD would have settled for a lesser number of MP seats. Speculation was rife that BJP would contest 14 of the 21 LS seats and BJD put up its candidates in the remaining seven. The failure in the negotiations not only opened floodgates for migration of leaders among parties, but also exposed the inadequacies in BJD’s LS plans, forcing the Naveen Patnaik-led party to rope in turncoats.

One-third woman quota spoiled chances of party’s male aspirants: The BJD has renominated three sitting MPs – Rajashree Mallick (Jagatsinghpur), Sarmistha Sethi from Jajpur and Manjulata Mandal from Bhadrak. It also repeated its 2019 candidate Kaushalya Hikaka from Koraput. The party needed at least three more women nominees to fill its 33% quota from Lok Sabha seats. Consequently, the BJD picked two new entrants, Parineeta (Bargarh) and Lekhasri (Balasore), and gave the Aska ticket to Ranjita Sahu, who could otherwise have made the going tough for the Conch party in Kavisuryanagar assembly segment. This trend, which the BJD started in 2019, has proved to be a dampener for several male ticket aspirations and the party has risked possible revolt at certain places.

Turncoats were given assurance of tickets: Three defectors – Parineeta, Manmath and Bhrugu – were rewarded with tickets within hours of joining the regional party.  Lekhsri purportedly quit BJP on April 7 after being assured of the Balasore seat. She switched to BJD the same day and was awarded a ticket on April 11. Bhoi and Anshuman joined BJD within a day or two of quitting Congress. While Anshuman’s name featured in the BJD’s first list of MP candidates, Bhoi made it to the second list.

Turncoats can split votes of rival parties: The BJD has inducted several leaders from rival parties with an eye to split opposition’s votes to ensure its win in the upcoming elections. Bhubaneswar is a case in point. In 2019, the regional party replaced five-time MP Prasanna Patasani with former Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik, a native of Puri, but the latter lost the election to BJP’s Aparajita Sarangi by over 24,000 votes.  By fielding Manmath, the party hopes to grab a good share of the Congress votes since he is the son of six-time Jatni MLA Suresh Routray.  With Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi, the expelled BJD leader who joined the BJP, in the poll fray from Berhampur, the BJD fielded Bhrugu purportedly to capture a certain portion of saffron votes. The same goes for Balasore where the BJD hopes to split the BJP votes with Lekhasri in the race.  Similarly, Pradeep Majhi and Surendra Bhoi can help the party grab some votes from Congress’ share.

New experiment can make poll arithmetic unpredictable: The whole exercise seems to have made the poll arithmetic unpredictable. It would not only help offset anti-incumbency but can also upset the opposition strategies. By giving the Basta assembly ticket to Subhasini Jena, the party chose to deny the Balasore MP ticket to her husband Rabindra Jena. Thus, creating an unforeseen opportunity for Lekhasri.

Counter anti-incumbency & Modi factor: By fielding party hoppers, the BJD is hoping to kill two birds with one stone. To counter the Modi wave, it has fielded Lekhasri and Bhrugu, while some incumbent MPs have also been replaced with defectors – Pradeep, Dhanurjay and Anshuman – to lessen the anti-incumbency impact.

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