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Naveen Patnaik returns for fifth term

BJD seemed set to win 111 of the 146 Assembly seats for which voting was held

By Subhashish Mohanty in Bhubaneswar
  • Published 24.05.19, 3:07 AM
  • Updated 24.05.19, 3:07 AM
  • 2 mins read
Naveen Patnaik also congratulated the Prime Minister on the phone for the massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Picture: Ashwinee Pati

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday was set to form the government in Odisha for the fifth time in a row with his party sweeping the Assembly battle.

His Biju Janata Dal (BJD) seemed set to win 111 of the 146 Assembly seats for which voting was held. The poll for one seat was cancelled following the death of the BJD candidate.

The BJD was also leading in 12 of Odisha’s 21 Lok Sabha seats but the BJP can pat itself on the back, having vastly improved its tally from the one Lok Sabha seat it won in 2014 to the nine seats it was leading on Thursday. At 7pm on Thursday, the BJP had a vote share of 38.4 per cent in the Lok Sabha seats of the state , and the BJD had 42. 7 per cent.

The BJP was also leading in 23 Assembly seats.

The Congress was leading in just 10 Assembly seats and was unlikely to win any of the state’s Lok Sabha seats.

“Congratulations to Naveen Babu for yet another victory in Odisha. Wishing him the very best for the next term,” Narendra Modi tweeted in what was seen as underlining the importance of the regional leader.

Naveen also congratulated the Prime Minister on the phone for the massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP and BJD had together contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1998, 1999 and 2004 — winning most of the state’s seats — and two Assembly elections, forming the state government together in 2000 and 2004. They have been fighting separately since the tie-up came apart before the 2009 Assembly elections.

The BJP had launched Mission 120-plus for the Assembly this time and BJP president Amit Shah had described Naveen as a “burnt transformer”. Naveen, who had maintained that his party would win comfortably, had said: “It will be known on May 23 who is a burnt transformer.”

Naveen was also set to win both the Assembly seats — his traditional Hinjili seat in Ganjam and Bijepur in western Odisha — he contested.

In 2014, the BJD had won 117 Assembly seats, which means its base is almost intact. Modi’s visit to the state had virtually no effect on the Assembly polls.

BJP leader Baijayant Jay Panda, who had quit the BJD last year following bitter acrimony with Naveen, was trailing behind his BJD rival and film star Anubhav Mohanty in the Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat. BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra, however, had a slender lead in the Puri Lok Sabha constituency.

“Here for the first time, people of Odisha effectively choose the Naveen Patnaik government and have lent their support to Modi in the aftermath of Pulwama attack,” said Raja Prasad Mohanty, a Bhubaneswar-based businessman.

For the last one year, the BJP had practically taken over the role of Opposition from the Congress. Now, the saffron party has formally emerged as the main Opposition.

Political pundits felt Naveen’s focus on empowerment had helped the BJD, and that Naveen’s giving one-third of the Lok Sabha tickets to women made a mark. Six of the seven BJD women candidates for the Lok Sabha elections were likely to win with comfortable victory margins, including the 69-year-old women’s self-help group leader and candidate for Aska, Pramila Bishoyi.

Naveen’s welfare schemes — for farmers, the subsidised rice, subsidised food, and health schemes — also helped him retain the Assembly, pundits felt.