Bhubaneswar, May 16: Naveen Patnaik today led the Biju Janata Dal towards victory in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, halting the Narendra Modi juggernaut and becoming the first Odisha chief minister to win four back-to-back terms.
By midnight, the BJD had won 91 of the state’s 147 Assembly seats and led in another 26, while it had bagged five of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and was leading in 15.
The Congress had won 11 Assembly seats and led in 5, looking likely to fall short of its 2009 tally of 27. The BJP, reduced to 6 seats in the last state elections, had won 7 and was leading in 3.
The Congress faced the prospect of scoring a duck in the parliamentary polls from the state, while the BJP led from one seat, Sundargarh.
Naveen declined to say whether he might join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which will form the next government at the Centre. “We have not thought anything about it,” he said.
Analysts attributed Naveen’s success in stopping the “Modi wave” to his administration’s performance, which seems to have outweighed the serial scams that embroiled the state government in the past five years.
Naveen has introduced a raft of pro-poor schemes such as Re 1-a-kg rice, free bicycles for schoolgirls, umbrellas and blankets for the poor and homeless, and mobiles for farmers, all of which appear to have been a hit.
“With Naveen’s towering personality dominating the polls in Odisha, Modi could not make a dent here. He had limited impact,” a BJD leader said.
The most talked about among the scams the government had got entangled in included a mining scandal and large-scale illegal deposit mobilisation by Saradha-like companies. The Supreme Court has now ordered a CBI probe into the deposit collection scam.
None of this hurt Naveen’s personal image, though.
“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.
Naveen’s feat is outstanding for someone who had made a hesitant entry into politics as a greenhorn just 17 years ago.
Although he keeps equal distance from the Congress and the BJP, no dispensation at the Centre can now afford to take him lightly.
Indications are that with a brute majority in the state and about 20 MPs in the Lok Sabha, his party would step up its campaign for the special category status for Odisha.
Today, Naveen thanked the voters and promised to continue working for them. “It’s the victory of the four crore people of Odisha,” he said.