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Naveen stands tall with win

- BJP’s Jual Oram wins lone LS seat in Sundargarh

Bhubaneswar, May 17: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has emerged as one of the most powerful regional satraps in the country with the BJD winning 117 seats in the 147-member Assembly, this being his fourth victory on the trot.

If the BJD bettered its 2009 performance in the Assembly, registering an increase of 13 seats riding what is being described as a pro-incumbency wave, its Lok Sabha tally also went up from 14 to 20. The only Lok Sabha seat that the party failed to win was Sundargarh, which went to BJP veteran Jual Oram, who trounced former India hockey captain Dillip Tirkey of the BJD.

The BJD owed its victory to a 6 per cent swing in its favour, the vote share of the party in the Assembly going up from 38.86 per cent to 43.4 per cent, while in the Lok Sabha, it shot up from 37.23 to 44.1 per cent. In contrast, the Congress vote percentage in the Assembly fell from 29.1 to 25.7 per cent, and in the Lok Sabha, it came down from 32.75 to 26 per cent. While the party’s Assembly tally fell from 27 in 2009 to 16 this time, it won no Lok Sabha seats this time, as compared to last time’s six. The BJP vote share registered a marginal increase going up in the Assembly from 15.05 to 18 per cent and in the Lok Sabha from 17 to 21.5 per cent. The party, which was reduced to six Assembly seats in 2009, bagged 10 and opened its Lok Sabha account winning the Sundargarh seat.

The Congress was the runners-up in 75 Assembly seats against BJP’s 35 and BJD’s 27. In the Lok Sabha, the Congress came second on 11 seats, the BJP on nine and the BJD on one. While two women, Rita Tarai (Jajpur) and Sakuntala Laguri (Keonjhar), emerged victorious in the Lok Sabha, the number of women victors in the Assembly was 11, of which 10 belonged to the BJD. The only woman to win on a BJP ticket was Radhrani Panda from Brajrajnagar. Tarai, the Lok Sabha winner from Jajpur, also registered the biggest victory margin of 3,20,271. The Nabarangpur Lok Sabha saw the keenest contest with BJD’s Balabhadra Majhi defeating Congress’s Pradeep Majhi by 2,042 votes, the narrowest in the state.

In the Assembly, higher education minister Badri Narayan Patra in Ghasipura registered the biggest victory margin of 88,602. The Mohana seat saw the closest contest with BJD’s Basanti Mallick winning by the narrowest margin of 115.

The results, while reconfirming Naveen Patnaik’s position as the undisputed leader of Odisha, have ominous implications for the Opposition, especially the Congress, which has been reduced to 16 from last time’s 27. Though state party chief Jaydev Jena has owned responsibility for the debacle, the drubbing has already triggered a factional war with dissidents set to step up their campaign for the ouster of Jena.

The BJP’s marginally enhanced tally is small consolation for the party which, having realised that Modi magic is not working in Odisha, would be forced to turn the mirror inwards. Senior BJP leaders admitted that they needed to work hard to retrieve lost ground.

Set to take oath as the chief minister for the fourth time in a row, Naveen Patnaik stands tall.

But even as he savours the delectable victory, stupendous by any standards for a fourth term, he must realise that his party’s 20 Lok Sabha seats would yield real political dividends only when he is in a position to wrest concessions like the special category status for Odisha.

However, that seems difficult at the moment given his continued policy of equal distance from the BJP and the Congress. Both the parties are leading the two major coalitions in the country, and the saffron party has a comfortable majority on its own in the Lok Sabha and would not give in to any kind of “blackmail” either from partners or regional satraps such as Naveen.

For Naveen, it seems time has come to stop treating the BJP, his former ally, as politically untouchable for the fear of his secular vote bank getting dented. If he succeeds in building bridges with the BJP, especially its prime minister-in-waiting Narendra Modi, he can also hope to prise out some other concessions from the Centre like halting construction of the controversial Polavaram project across the border in Andhra Pradesh.

It would all depend on which path Naveen decides to tread.