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Naveen Patnaik stuns opponents with a stellar performance

Naveen Patnaik stuns opponents with a stellar performance
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First Published: Sun, May 17 2009. 12 28 AM IST

Clean image: Biju Janata Dal’s win has ensured Naveen Patnaik will be the first Orissa chief minister to serve a third successive term. Biswaranjan Rout / AP
Clean image: Biju Janata Dal’s win has ensured Naveen Patnaik will be the first Orissa chief minister to serve a third successive term. Biswaranjan Rout / AP
Updated: Sun, May 17 2009. 12 28 AM IST
New Delhi: Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo Naveen Patnaik’s gamble of breaking a 11-year alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and going it alone in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections has paid off, establishing him as the undisputed political leader of the state.
Clean image: Biju Janata Dal’s win has ensured Naveen Patnaik will be the first Orissa chief minister to serve a third successive term. Biswaranjan Rout / AP
Patnaik, 62, stunned his opponents with a stellar performance, leading the BJD to a thumping two-thirds majority in the state assembly and may secure 14 seats out of 21 in the Lok Sabha, according to results and leads available at 8pm. The party has no intention to join an alliance led either by the BJP or the Congress party, he said as the results trickled in.
Patnaik starred in the BJD’s impressive show, trouncing his nearest rival Raghab Parida of Congress by 60,786 votes in the Hinjili assembly seat in Ganjam district. Patnaik bagged 72,402 votes in his home turf against 11,616 for Parida.
“I feel absolutely humbled by the tremendous generosity shown by the people of my state towards the BJD,” Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar, the Orissa capital, on Saturday. “I would like to express my deep gratitude to the people. We shall work much harder and ensure peace, harmony, progress, development and welfare of the state.”
The BJD’s win ensured that Patnaik will become the first in Orissa to become chief minister three times in a row. His appeal for Orissa’s voters comes from his political sobriety and a corruption-free image. Being the son of the late Biju Patnaik, one of Orissa’s most popular political leaders, only enhances that appeal, analysts say. After Patnaik broke the BJD’s alliance with the BJP and pitchforked his party into the elections on its own, it had widely been expected that he would lose significant ground. The BJP will eat into BJD’s votes and the Congress will gain as a result, argued the sceptics, who have been silenced by the party’s electoral performance.
While the Congress and the BJP enlisted their national leaders and Bollywood stars to campaign for them in the state, the BJD could only depend on Patnaik, who addressed up to 10 election rallies a day in the run-up to polling.
Though Congress has performed better in the Lok Sabha election, improving its tally from two seats in 2004 polls to six, its Assembly seats may decreased to 26 from 38 in 2004 elections, according to data available at 8pm.
However, the loss suffered by the BJP in the state has been colossal. It may lose all the seven Lok Sabha seats it had won in 2004 while in coalition with the BJD, according to data available at 8pm.
Utkal University professor of political science S.N. Mishra said the BJP focused more on “betrayal” by Patnaik rather than any positive issues related to the economic development of Orissa, a strategy that backfired.
BJD leader Tathagat Satpathy, who won the Lok Sabha election from Dhenkanal constituency, said the people of Orissa had become tired of the politics of both the Congress and BJP. “However, this is a positive vote, not a vote against anybody. For the first time, there was a pro-poor and pro-people government in Orissa,” he added.
Patnaik’s popularity received a boost after he announced a Rs2 per kilo rice scheme for the people below the poverty line (BPL) six months before the elections. With 47.15% of the Orissa population classified as BPL, the move seemed to have worked for him in a state where caste equations do not play a major role in elections.
Pyarimohan Mohapatra, BJD’s chief strategist, accepts that the scheme had played a role in his party’s success. “The Rs2 rice scheme was successfully implemented at a time when prices were rising very fast. I do not deny that this was also partly responsible for our victory,” he said.
Though Patnaik’s performance is certain to increase his importance in national politics, it is still unclear what role his party could play at the Centre. Patnaik said his party would work harder for the development of Orissa and would not align with an alliance led by either the Congress or BJP.
“We are a regional party. We would like a government (at the Centre) that fulfils the just demands of the people of Orissa,” Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
PTI contributed to the story.
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First Published: Sun, May 17 2009. 12 28 AM IST