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  India   All India  02 Aug 2019  Odisha: Central leaders fail to match aggressive canvassing by BJP, BJD

Odisha: Central leaders fail to match aggressive canvassing by BJP, BJD

THE ASIAN AGE. | AKSHAYA KUMAR SAHOO
Published : Aug 2, 2019, 8:09 am IST
Updated : Aug 2, 2019, 8:09 am IST

Odisha set to be a Cong-mukt state with grand old party’s votes slumped to 16.12 per cent from 33.78 per cent votes in 2000.

A file photo of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi interacting with Odisha PCC  president Niranjan Patnaik as party leader Jitendra Singh looks on.
 A file photo of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi interacting with Odisha PCC president Niranjan Patnaik as party leader Jitendra Singh looks on.

BHUBANESWAR: The results of the recent bypoll in Patkura Assembly constituency in Odisha have re-established that the country’s grand old party Congress is losing ground in the state, paving the way for the BJP to vie for power with the ruling BJD in the coming days.

Of the total 1.78 lakh votes polled, the party’s official nominee Jayant Mohanty got meagre 2,104 votes, despite the fact that many of top leaders of the state campaigned for him. The BJD bagged the seat with 96,017 votes while the BJP finished second with 78,097.

What is quite surprising, the same Congress candidate had got 42,138 votes in 2014 polls. The loss of 40,034 votes mostly benefitted the BJP. In the 2014 polls, the BJP candidate Manas Ranjan Mohanty had got only 21,588 votes.

In February 2018, the Congress had also presented a similar dismal performance in Bijepur Assembly constituency which went to bypoll following death of party MLA Subal Sahu. Its official nominee Pranaya Sahu got only 10,274 votes and lost his deposit.

In 2014, Subal Sahu had won the seat by getting 53,290 votes as against BJP candidate Jayshankar Pattanaik’s 30,001 votes.

Ruling BJD candidate Ritarani Sahu, who got 1,02,871 votes, won the seat by a huge margin of 41,933 votes. The loss of over 43,116 votes went mostly to the BJD and BJP.

In the 2019 bypoll, the BJP secured 60,938 votes.

The decline of Congress in Odisha started in 2000 when it lost power to the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD. In 2019, the grand old party could not field candidates in all the 147 Assembly seats. It could give candidates in only 138 seats and won only nine seats, seven seats fewer than its 2014 tally. Its vote share dropped to 16.12 per cent from 25.7 per cent.

In 2000 polls, the Congress had polled 33.78 per cent votes. In 2004 and 2009, it got 34.82 per cent and 29.1 per cent, respectively. Its fortune further nosedived in 2014 and the party had to be content with 25.7 per cent votes and its strength in the Assembly dropped from 38 seats in 2004 to 16 seats, much because of the mess in candidate selection, alleged sale of party tickets and lack of coordination among the office-bearers.

On the campaign front in 2019, the Congress failed to match the aggressive canvassing by the BJD and BJP. While chief minister Naveen Patnaik led his party’s campaign from the front, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, almost made Odisha their second home by regularly visiting the state.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who addressed at least four public meetings, cancelled his Kandhamal trip for unknown reasons. This shattered the morale of the party workers in the state and affected the poll prospects, say analysts.

Decimated from the second position to the third position in the 2017 rural polls, the Congress was eyeing power in the state after its success in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls. However, internal dissensions and poor preparation resulted in the party not being able to touch the double-digit number. The only solace for the party was that it could win one of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.

In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the party had drawn nil.

What is quite surprising is that despite the party steadily sinking in the state, party’s central leaders are taking no interest to revive their lost glory. Before 2000, the Congress ruled the state for nearly four decades.

“I admit that Congress has suffered defeat, but we will soon put up a spectacular show,” said state Congress spokesperson Arya Kumar.

Tags: naveen patnaik, jayant mohanty