ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Orissa - Elections and Everyday Politics

From a national perspective the victory of the BJP-BJD combine in the parliamentary elections is yet another victory of the National Democratic Alliance. At the state level, the decline of the Congress and the spectacular rise of the BJP point to the emergence of a distinct regional political arena in the state which has much to do with the nature of the elite and the emerging middle class in the state.

The exceptional success of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Biju Janata Dal evidently is one of the significant outcomes of the 13th Lok Sabha elections in Orissa. Out of 21, the BJP-BJD combine has captured nineteen seats which is three more than the number of constituencies it had won in the last election. Between both the parties they have secured nearly 58 per cent (BJD: 33 and BJP: 24.6) of the total votes in the state (‘Interpreting the Mandate’ by Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar, Frontline, November 5, 1999). On the other side the electoral debacle of the Congress in the state is quite striking. The number of seats that it had secured this time (two out of 21) is the lowest so far. Even in its rapid slide it has managed to gather nearly 37 per cent of the total votes in this election. It is even more than it could manage in the 1967 elections (33.3 per cent). Even in the constituencies where the Congress was historically strong and even considered invincible for decades, the party was defeated by the BJP-BJD combine this time. The Nawrangpur constituency is a case in point. In the two constituencies where the Congress had won, the margin of the victory is really small. The victory of the Congress candidate K P Sing Deo from Dhenkanal was attributed to the presence of a rebel BJP candidate in the constituency. Another significant point about the electoral outcome in Orissa is that in 128 assembly segments (out of a total of 147) the BJP-BJD alliance has polled more votes than the Congress.1 In all of 22 assembly constituencies reserved for the scheduled caste in the state the Congress has come as the second party. In the assembly segments reserved for the tribals, the Congress has managed to win more votes than the alliance only in 11 (out of 34) constituencies. In a few months time the assembly election will be held in Orissa and it will not be a surprise if the BJP-BJD combine wins it by an overwhelming majority.

Such a projection of the future looks more plausible if we examine the competitive politics in Orissa from the vantage-point of vote share of different parties. In all the three regions (coastal, southern and the western) of the state the BJP-BJD combine has secured more votes than their main competitor the Congress. In the coastal area the alliance has got nearly 58 per cent of the votes which is thirteen percentage points more than that of the Congress and 10 percentage points more than what it had got in the last parliamentary election (The Samaj (in Oriya), October 12, 1999). In the coastal region the Congress’ decline in terms of its vote share is indeed the sharpest in the state. Its vote share had fallen from 42.85 per cent in the last election to 35.69 per cent this time. In western Orissa the alliance has got nearly as many votes (in terms of percentage points) as it secured in the coastal region. In the southern region of the state it has increased its vote share by six percentage points. In contrast the Congress’ vote share in the south and in the west has remained the same in comparison to the last election. The overt and covert factional fight within the Congress, no doubt, contributed to the electoral plight of the Congress. In contrast the entry of several stalwarts of the Janata Dal in the BJD before the election consolidated the votes of the party further. In light of this evidence one can argue that the combination of the BJP and BJD has altered the arithmetic of political competition in the state.

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