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Naveen blocks Modi

Bhubaneswar, May 16: As the country was awash with the Modi wave, Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal scripted a stunning victory in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Odisha. With this, Naveen has become the first chief minister of the state to win four back-to-back terms in office.

The BJD seemed set to gain a brute majority, the biggest so far, in the 147-strong state Assembly.

When the results last came in, the party had won 60 out of the 73 Assembly seats for which the results had been announced. Of the remaining 74 seats, its candidates were leading on 59 seats.

This was in sharp contrast to the Congress, which had won seven seats and was leading on nine seats, a loss of 11 seats compared to its 2009 performance when the party bagged 27 seats in the Assembly. The BJP, which had been reduced to six seats in the last election, was a marginal gainer with its candidates winning on four seats and leading on five others. Independents won two seats while Samata Kranti Dal was leading on one seat.

The Naveen magic also worked in the Lok Sabha with the BJD winning all the five seats for which the results have been declared so far. Of the remaining 16 seats, the party was leading on 15 while the BJP was likely to bag the lone seat of Sundargarh. The prominent Lok Sabha winners of the BJD included Ladu Kishore Swain, who bagged the Aska seat trouncing his nearest Congress rival Sriloknath Rath by a margin 3,11,997 votes, actor-turned-politician Siddhant Mohapatra who defeated former Union minister Chandra Sekhar Sahu by 1,27,720 votes.

In the clash between the royals in Balangir, BJD candidate, Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo got the better of his sister-in-law and BJP candidate Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo, the margin of victory being 1,04,299. While BJD newcomer Sakuntala Laguri trounced BJP’s Ananta Nayak by 1,57,317 votes, another ruling party candidate, Ramchandra Hansda tripped Congress’s Nepole Raghu Murmu by 1,22,866 votes. The BJP’s only hope appeared to be Sundargah where former Union minister Jual Oram was leading his BJD rival and former India hockey captain Dilip Tirkey by over 14,000 votes. Congress stalwart Srikant Jena was trailing in Balasore.

Prominent BJD winners in the Assembly included chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who retained his Hinjili seat in Ganjam district, health minister Damodar Rout from Paradip, higher education minister Badri Narayan Patra from Ghasipura, law minister Maheswar Mohanty from Puri and Sanjay Das Burma from Brahmagiri. While the most prominent BJD loser was former minister A.U. Singhdeo, three ministers, Pratap Kesari Deb, Rabi Narayan Nanda and Prasanna Acharya were trailing.

The Congress had little to cheer about with many of its stalwarts biting the dust. While state party president Jaydev Jena lost from Anandpur, Lalatendu Mohapatra was trounced in Brahmagiri. The winners from the party included Narasingh Mishra who defeated A.U. Singh Deo in Balangir. The biggest loser in BJP was veteran Bijay Mohapatra from Mahakalpada.

BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, who is all set to be sworn the state’s chief minister for a record fourth term, thanked the electorate for reposing their faith in his party and promised to continue his good work for the people of the state. “It is the victory of four crore people of Odisha. I am indebted to them,” he said. Naveen, however, refused to disclose his stand vis--vis the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance which is set to form the next government at the Centre. “We have not thought anything about it,” he quipped.

The stupendous success of Naveen in bucking the Modi factor has baffled political observers who are also debating if the Odisha chief minister has benefited from a pro-incumbency wave. “With Naveen’s towering personality dominating the polls in Odisha, Modi could not make a dent here. He had but limited impact,” said a BJD leader.

The vote, no doubt, has been on the performance of Naveen Patnaik government which endeared itself to the people with a raft of pro-poor schemes including Re 1-a-kg rice, free bicycles for school girls, umbrellas and blankets for poor and the homeless and mobiles to farmers. Opposition campaign against the government on the rice issue notwithstanding, the scheme has been a big hit with the people.

The election was a real test of Naveen’s mettle as during the last five years his government battled a number of scams and scandals, the most talked about of these being the mines scam and large-scale bunglings by ponzy companies. The Supreme Court has now ordered a CBI probe into the deposit collection scam.

None of these could, however, dent Naveen’s teflon-coated image.

“Accusations were made against his ministers and fingers were pointed at his MLAs, but there has not been a single instance of any opposition leader coming up with even an iota of evidence suggesting the chief minister’s personal involvement in any scandal,” said a BJD leader.

The results, no doubt, have established Naveen as the tallest political leader in Odisha. He has not only bettered his father’s record as a chief minister but has also emerged as the most successful chief minister of all times in the state. For a novice, who made a hesitant entry into politics in 1997, this has been an outstanding achievement.

Naveen’s clout even in the Dilli Durbar is likely to increase following the results. Even though he continues to maintain equal distance from Congress and the BJP, no dispensation at the Centre can afford to take him lightly. Indications are that with a brute majority in the state and with nearly 20 MPs in the Lok Sabha, his party would step up its campaign for special category status to Odisha.

The biggest loser in this elections has been the Congress which, with a lead on just 15 Assembly seats, is facing a major threat to its existence as the main Opposition party. The party had 27 seats in the last Assembly when the BJP could manage just six seats, but the saffron outfit is likely to increase its tally this time with its candidates leading on as many as 12 seats. As the counting moves towards the closing rounds, the Congress could well be upstaged by the BJP if it manages a few more seats.

However, while the Congress has paid the price for infighting in its ranks, the BJP’s boast about Modi factor working in its favour has been proved wrong. In Odisha, it is Naveen all the way.


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