| A sand sculpture made by sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik on Puri beach ahead of the elections. (Reuters) |
Poll predictions apart, all eyes are set on 53 of 147 Assembly seats where the victory margin was less than 10,000 votes in the 2009 elections. A last minute swing in favour of the BJP during the campaign could drastically alter the political scenario in the state.
Of these 53 Assembly constituencies, the BJD had won 27, the Congress 18 and the BJP could manage to win three of its six seats in 2009. Independents had won four seats, while BJD’s ally NCP won one seat.
In the closely contested 53 constituencies, Congress was runner up in 20 constituencies, the BJD in 14 seats and the BJP in 11 seats. Independent candidates occupied second slot in two seats, the JMM in four and the CPM, an ally of the BJD, finished second in two constituencies. In nine Assembly constituencies, where the vote difference was less than 1,000, the Congress managed to win in six seats and finished second in the remaining three seats. The BJD could win two seats and a Congress rebel another.
Political analysts feel that a swing in favour of the BJP, all permutations and combinations can go haywire as far as these Assembly seats are concerned.
Of these constituencies, 15 Assembly segments are in the coastal belt where the BJP had a negligible presence barring a few pockets of influence. A surge in favour of the BJP this time could upset the electoral arithmetic of the ruling party that considers the coastal belt as its bastion.
“If the BJP manages to draw more than 10,000 votes in the 70-odd constituencies in the coastal belt, it could only help the Congress, supposedly a spent force in the state, throwing a surprise,” remarked a political analyst. In west Odisha, the BJP has the ability to spring a surprise where the Congress had got bulk of its 27 seats primarily due to the triangular contest. The BJP, as the BJD’s junior poll partner between 1999 and 2009, has a strong organisational presence. In 15 Assembly seats, the victory margin was within 10,000. The Congress in the last elections was also able to capture three Lok Sabha seats from the region.
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had toured extensively in the region to strengthen the party’s support base.
“Modi factor is going to play a decisive role in the winning prospect of a candidate,” said BJP’s Sambalpur Lok Sabha candidate Suresh Pujari.
In south Odisha, considered to be the BJD’s stronghold, the margin of victory was less that 10,000 in 13 Assembly segments. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik represents Hinjli in the Assembly from this region. Although the BJP does not have major presence, in urban areas, the party could tilt the balance in favour of either the Congress or the BJD depending on the local factors. The BJD is expected to perform well in the south region.
“We are aware that the outcome in closely contested seats of 2009 polls will be crucial. Our leader (Naveen babu) has meticulously formulated constituency-specific strategies. He has taken care of these vulnerable constituencies well in advance. Forget the last minute swing in favour of the BJP, we will win most of the seats,” said a BJD leader.