Odisha’s unicameral legislature has a strength of 147 and a party needs to cobble up the magic figure of 74 to form the government. The incumbent
had won 117 assembly seats in 2014. The BJD is riding on its organisational strength, Chief Minister Patnaik’s unblemished image and the government’s pro-people and development oriented agenda over 19 years in power.
The forecast for the Lok Sabha, however, offers a contrasting picture. Most of the national exit polls show BJP usurping 10-12 seats from the ruling BJD. If the exit polls are any indicator of the voters’ mood, BJD’s tally in 2019 Lok Sabha will be down to 10-11 from 20 it won in the 2014 polls.
BJD’s spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb attributed the BJP’s gain (in Lok Sabha) in Odisha to the emasculating Congress. Deb also soft-pedalled the impact of frequent Odisha visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP’s national president Amit Shah and the posse of national BJP leaders to woo voters ahead of elections.
“Prime Minister Modi visited Odisha 10 times, Amit Shah toured 18 times. Around 50 BJP leaders of national stature criss-crossed the state for election campaigns. But what is their party gaining? Modi has some impact on the urban voters but the influence over rural voters is suspect. BJD has the last-mile advantage in Odisha,” he added.
Deb sounded confident of his party coming back to power but declined a comment on the numbers.
BJP leaders differed with Deb’s contentions. Repudiating the exit poll projections, senior BJP leader Kharbela Swain prophesised the BJP winning at least 70 seats in Odisha with BJD trailing at 50. “My assessment is based on the extensive interactions with the people, my party workers and journalists straddling across all constituencies in the state,” he said.