BJD-BJP engaged in a do-or-die battle for Odisha

The main strength of the BJD is the personal image and popularity of the chief minister and party president, Naveen Patnaik. File photo

With just two days to go for the first phase of elections in Odisha on April 11, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is engaged in an intense battle with its principal rival, the BJP, to retain its turf.

The Naveen Patnaik-led regional outfit seems to have an edge over the saffron party.

However, there is a pro-Narendra Modi undercurrent across the state. And political observers believe that the ruling party may have a major problem at hand if the undercurrent turns into a massive wave favouring the BJP on the poll eve.

Odisha is famous for last-minute swings during the elections. In 2014, the BJD was comfortably placed to capture power again but the eleventh-hour pro-Patnaik votes saw the regional outfit sweeping the twin polls (for Lok Sabha and the state assembly) with a landslide. It was virtually a one-sided show with the BJD capturing as many as 20 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats and 117 out of 147 assembly constituencies.

If one would look into the strength and weaknesses of both BJD and BJP as well as Congress, the third major player in the race, which is struggling hard to better its position compared to the 2014 elections, all the three parties, interestingly, have less positive and more negative factors in their books.

The main strength of the BJD is the personal image and popularity of the chief minister and party president, Naveen Patnaik. The regional outfit is also banking on some of the schemes launched by the state government for the poor, women and farmers.

The main weakness of the party is the incumbency factor. After 19 long years in power, it has become a tough job for the party to convince the people to vote for them again. The Modi issue, as well as the rebel activities, particularly after selecting party nominees for assembly and Lok Sabha seats, will play a key role if the BJD performs poorly in the twin polls.

For BJP, the main strength is Prime Minister Modi. The principal weakness of the party is the lack of a local leader who can match Patnaik’s stature.

No wonder, many observers have already started describing the twin polls as a “Modi-Patnaik battle”.

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