Mass exodus from Congress, BJD to join BJP causes anxiety to Naveen.
Bhubaneswar: Anywhere in the country, the loss of the Congress’ vote share has very often benefited the BJP. It was also happening so in Odisha for nearly two decades, bringing cheers to the ruling BJD leaders. But things are changing fast now in the state — the same Congress loss is turning to be a major headache for the regional party.
The Congress voters are no longer shifting their allegiance to the BJD.
Instead, they are seen preferring to jump to the BJP bandwagon as the saffron party is making steady progress in the state since 2014.
After the breakup of the BJD-BJP alliance in 2009, it was expected that the Congress would reap rich dividends out of the political turmoil and do better in the Assembly elections. However, surprisingly, the benefit did not go to the party. The grand old party’s vote share in 2009 Assembly polls slumped to 29 per cent from 35 per cent in 2004, enabling the BJD to improve its tally from 61 seats to 103 seats in the 147-member state Assembly.
In the 2014 Assembly elections, the Congress fortune further nose-dived to 26 per cent, ensuring a mammoth victory of the BJD despite strong anti-incumbency wind sweeping across the state. The regional outfit led by Naveen Patnaik proved all poll pundits wrong by winning 117 seats.
Post-poll analysis revealed the Congress voters went for BJD following disintegration of the party’s state outfit because of recurrent and intense internal bickering among the factional satraps.
As the BJD was predicted to repeat the same electoral successes in the 2017 rural polls, the third largest electoral exercise after the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, the party leaders were taken aback when the ballot boxes were opened and votes were counted. The swing of the Congress voters had this time happened in favour of the BJP.
The message for the BJD president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik was now much loud and clear: The loss of Congress is no longer a gain of BJD.
What has stung Naveen most in recent times is mass exodus of the Congress and BJD leaders to BJP, indicating that BJD no longer enjoys the trust and confidence of the turncoats.
Through its ‘Mishran Parv’ or joining ceremony, the saffron party has drafted over one hundred Congress leaders, including minority Muslim and Christian leaders, - in the past few weeks, - sending out a message that BJD was no longer the only non-Congress platform. And, in the same vein, the BJP was no longer “untouchable” and “communal” for the Congress deserters.
Former BJD MP from Koraput, Jayaram Pangi, former BJD MLA Sidharth Sekhar Singh, former Congress MLA Dologobinda Nayak and former NCP MLA Utkal Keshari Parida are among several top leaders who recently joined BJP.
The mass exodus of Congress leaders, as senior BJP leaders like Dharmendra Pradhan, Jual Oram and Basanta Panda claim, will continue, - it is expected Naveen’s worry will only further aggravate.
Left with little or limited opportunity to salvage the party’s fortune, the BJD has now pressed the panic button asking all its leaders, both at the state and grassroots levels, - to fan out across the nook and corner of the state and listen to people’s grievances so as to preempt further avalanche in its fortune.