ONI Bureau: As expected, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) led by CM Naveen Patnaik continued its winning streak in Odisha by dominating the Bijepur bypoll. But, the huge victory margin not only stunned the BJP, but also send a clear message that they still remain invincible in the state.
Rita Sahu (BJD) polled 102,871 votes, while Ashok Panigrahi (BJP) secured 60,938 votes. Pranaya Sahu (Congress) could manage just 10,274 votes. The victory margin was 41,933 votes, which is considered as huge. BJD got 56.61% votes, while BJP got 33.53% and Congress secured 5.65%.
Contrary to the expectations, the Congress sunk to abysmal depths, as its candidate could muster just little over 10,000 votes and surrendered meekly, which resulted in transfer of most of their votes to BJD. Even the bitter rivals of Congress did not expect the party to take Bijepur so lightly – the seat they won thrice in a row from 2004 till 2014.
On the other hand, the BJD did its ground work well in the last 5 months. Senior Ministers, Leaders, MLAs camped there, reached out to the masses, government officials ensured fast tracked developmental work. The party also won over the Congress workers and leaders, who never wanted BJP to win. Not to forget, CM Naveen Patnaik led from the front.
The BJP under Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan tried their best, but somewhere they faltered to pose a threat to BJD, which has mastered the art of winning the elections.
In 2014, Subal Sahu (Congress) got 53,290 votes, while BJD candidate Prasanna Acharya got 52,832 votes. BJP candidate Jayshankar Pattnaik got 30,001 followed by Ashok Panigrahi (Independent) who secured 18,232 votes. While BJP managed to retain its core vote, and added Ashok Panigrahi’s votes too, BJD retained its own and gained most of the Congress votes to emerge victorious.
Some incidents such as hurling eggs at CM in Balasore by a BJP worker, hurling of shoes at CM Naveen Patnaik in Kumbhari during Bijepur bypoll campaign and murder of Susanta Singh’s brother Subrat Singh’s driver in Sohela, worked against the party, as BJD took full advantage of the situation to discredit the saffron party. The public perception being created by the BJD against BJP, has worked perfect this time.
Both BJD and BJP spent heavily, but the ruling party had a better strategy to woo the voters. It’s a massive wake up call for the BJP, which showed its complacency at times and ignored the real issues. Congress is totally clueless, as it may witness further exodus of its cadres to either BJD or BJP. The BJD is joyful, confident and jubilant, but they should not have any complacency and keep focusing on mass outreach and development. Or else, the picture would be entire different in 2019 contrary to what they believe.