Odisha Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Patnaik’s Reign Ends Amidst Rising BJP Popularity

Odisha Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Patnaik’s Reign Ends Amidst Rising BJP Popularity

BJP’s vote share Jumped to 40.07 percent this year from 32.49 percent in 2019

Vishesh SinghUpdated: Tuesday, June 11, 2024, 02:26 PM IST
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Twitter/@Naveen_Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Odisha voted for both assembly and parliamentary elections this year, with stakes high for the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Naveen Patnaik's long winning streak came to an end as the BJP not only ousted the BJD from power in the assembly elections, winning 78 out of 147 seats compared to 23 in 2019, but also dominated the parliamentary elections, increasing their seats from 8 in 2019 to 20 out of 21. In a surprising turn of events, Naveen Patnaik himself lost to BJP's Laxman Bag from the Kantabanji seat. These results mark significant gains for the BJP in the state, establishing their presence in eastern India.

BJP’s Increase in Vote Share Through Each Elections

Through each election, the BJP has steadily increased its vote share in Odisha. Starting with just 32.49 percent in the 2019 assembly elections, the BJP managed a 7.5 percent increase, reaching 40.07 percent, surpassing the BJD's vote share, which declined from 44.71 percent in 2019 to 40.22 percent this year. In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP's vote share also rose significantly, from 38.4 percent to 45.34 percent, indicating a strong popular mandate for the saffron party.

Patnaik’s Losing Grip In The State 

There were many reasons why Naveen Patnaik was losing his grip in Odisha. Since the 2000s, the state hadn't witnessed a powerful opposition. The Congress struggled internally to oppose the firmly entrenched BJD, creating an opposition vacuum swiftly filled by the BJP, which gained increasing popularity since its win in 2014. In this election, the BJP fielded prominent members like Dharmendra Pradhan from Sambalpur and Sambit Patra from Puri, both of whom won their constituencies.

Many people in Odisha doubted Naveen Patnaik’s succession plans as the 77-year-old's health became a central concern, and his absence from many events created uncertainty about his successor among the electorate. Many believed that V.K. Pandian, a retired IAS officer from the 2000 batch who became Patnaik’s close aide after serving as his Private Secretary, was the likely successor. Pandian's prominent presence at election rallies and his role in key decisions suggested he might be next in line. However, his non-native status—being from Tamil Nadu—raised doubts among voters about whether a non-native could effectively govern Odisha. Just before the last phase of the elections, it was clarified that V.K. Pandian would not be succeeding Patnaik, but by then it was too late to dispel the public's assumptions.

Pandian’s perceived control over the party and government alongside Patnaik led to dissatisfaction among party members. It was believed that under Pandian’s influence, many non-Odia bureaucrats were assigned key responsibilities, which further fueled discontent within the party ranks.

BJP’s Campaigning 

Compared to the BJD, the BJP campaigned extensively in Odisha this time. Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP deployed star campaigners like Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Himanta Biswa Sarma, and Hema Malini. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan vigorously campaigned in western Odisha, promising development in the region. This increased his prominence as a potential alternative to Patnaik.

The BJP is yet to decide on a new Chief Minister for the state after Naveen Patnaik's record 24-year tenure.

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