With D-day far away, parties gamble with arithmetic, statistics and hope

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, April 21:

While the unexpected surge in the voter turnout in Odisha has surprised the poll pundits, the ruling BJD has good many reasons to worry about its fallouts.

The huge nine per cent increase in balloting has given rise to apprehensions among the ruling party leaders who suspect it may go against them.
For the first time since they came to power in 2000, there is marked diffidence among the BJD leadership that shows up. They are now openly talking about losing much more seats this time as compared to the 2009 general elections.

Sources said the Special Branch, an intelligence wing of the state government has given a report to the party supremo and chief minister that the BJP may spring a major surprise on the day of counting on May 16.

The overall turnout of 74.3 per cent is the highest in six elections that Odisha has seen in the last two decades. The state recorded a nine per cent jump in votes as compared to 65.3 percent in 2009 elections.

In 2004, the polling rate was a shade better at 66.06 percent whereas prior to that it stood at a low of 59.1 in 2000 Assembly elections.

Incidentally Odisha had recorded 73.64 per cent polling in 1995 when an overconfident Biju Patnaik had to face a surprise defeat.

“The BJP may surprise everyone and queer the pitch for the BJD. Our assessment is that the vote percentage of the saffron party is expected to rise by about 10 per cent and reduce the he ruling party to a minority,” said an official of the intelligence wing.

A senior BJD leader, however, told OST that the party is expecting to get 80 to 85 seats in the elections.

“ The reduction in the number of seats may be due to many factors. While there was the Modi impact, the big rise in the voting percentage is a major factor as this generally goes against the incumbent government. Besides, the party has had to face a rebellion within its ranks during the poll process and that may hamper the prospects of the party in the elections. Now, we can only wait and pray for a better result,” said the leader wishing not to be named.

Riding on the Modi wave, a jubilant BJP has started claiming that it would form the next government in the state and also at the Centre following massive acceptance of the party by the people.

“The people of Odisha have showered votes on our party and we hope to form the government both at the Centre and in the state,” said BJP state president KV Singhdeo, while refusing to divulge any number or the the party refusing to divulge the number of seats they will win or the arithmetic that leads them to believe that they will be able to form the next government.

The Congress, on the other hand, has been keeping a relatively low profile. Its poll campaign was of an unduly subdued and lacklustre kind- thanks to its insecure and disoriented leaders who were simply unequal to the task and busy defending their deposits in their own constituencies.

Senior Congress leaders hope to get at least 45 seats this time and they have some logic on their side.

Their hope of winning more seats than last time banks heavily on how much they manage to gain from the BJD-BJP tussle. They have no qualms in admitting that most seats in their kitty would come by default and on their merit. They agree that their chances of doing better would depend on the BJD rebel factor and BJP cutting into the ruling party’s vote bank.

Congress leaders say the decrease in BJD’s vote share and the rise in the vote share of the BJP will help the party because its share in total votes has never dipped below 28% since 1951.

That the Congress has a traditional and near-constant support base in Odisha is proved from the poll figures in the last three general elections (2000, 2004, 2009) which shows the vote share of the party has hovered around 30 percent despite the fact that it has been out of power for last 15 years.

In the last general election (2009), the party won 6 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 27 of the 147 assembly seats at stake.

In contrast, BJD which had 39 per cent vote share, was victorious in 14 Lok Sabha and 103 assembly seats. BJP with 15 per cent vote share had drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha poll and bagged only 6 assembly seats.

While the state has witnessed 14 elections since 1951, the lowest vote percentage of Congress was in 1971 when it got just 28 per cent. The second lowest was 29.78 in 1990, when Biju Patnaik stormed into power by securing a record 123 seats in state Assembly.

In the 1995 Assembly elections in Odisha, the polling figure was 73.64 percent and the then Janata Dal Government led by Biju Patnaik lost the polls and Congress returned to power.

But then the elections were limited only to the Assembly.

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