Success BJP In Dhamnagar Bypoll Deals Blow To BJD’s Sense Of Invincibility


Since losing the Dhamnagar assembly bypoll to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Naveen Patnaik and the BJD have gone winless in Odisha (BJP). Saffron won this coastal seat by 9,881 votes.The BJD hasn’t lost a state by-election since the 2019 general elections, when it won a fifth straight term as the state’s ruling party with a supermajority of 112 in the assembly of 147.

Since 2019, it had won every byelection, including the 2020 Balasore Sadar seat from the BJP. The BJP lost Balasore Sadar, bringing its total assembly seats to 22, although it remains the state’s main opposition, a distinction it acquired from the Congress in 2019.

Despite the BJP fielding Suryabanshi Suraj, the son of former MLA Bishnu Charan Sethi, who had died, most BJD leaders were confident of regaining the seat on the strength of the Patnaik government’s success, the party’s trump card in every election. They didn’t care that former BJD MLA Rajendra Das would run as an independent in Dhamnagar.

The party’s arrogance lost them the election, as the rebel won with over 8,000 votes and harmed the party’s official candidate, a women’s SHG leader.

BJD lost because they overused women’s empowerment. As part of its push for 33% women in state assemblies and parliament, the party filed many women in the 2019 elections and a woman in the June Brajrajnagar assembly bypoll.
Political observers say that even if the chief minister has won over women’s votes for the BJD by advocating their causes, he can only obtain the best outcomes if he picks the right candidates.

The candidate must be chosen correctly and fairly. Women may not win elections. She should interact with voters. Unlikely in Dhamnagar. The BJD anticipated its candidate would win based on the chief minister’s popularity and his great work for women. “This did not happen,” said political scientist Shashi Kant Mishra.

The BJP, on the other hand, chose a great candidate and ran a well-organized campaign, reminding voters of former MLA Bishnu Charan Sethy’s service and assuring them that his son, Suryabanshi Suraj, would be a worthy successor.

After losing the 2020 Balasore Sadar byelection to the BJD, the BJP realised that losing in Dhamanagar would demoralise its cadre ahead of the 2024 national elections. Dharmendra Pradhan, the party’s state leader and federal minister, led the campaign and invested substantially to assure its victory. Jal Shakti Union minister Biseshwar Tudu voted for the candidate.

We accomplished everything at Dhamnagar. We had a great candidate, plan, and campaign coordination, led by veterans like Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Our accomplishment disproved Naveen Patnaik’s invincibility. “The people say we can defeat the BJD if we work sincerely,” said state BJP general secretary Bhrigu Buxipatra.

The BJP’s rise in the state is unquestionable, and the Dhamanagar outcome will cheer party loyalists. Odisha’s BJP-BJD alliance lasted 11 years, nine of which were in power. Before the 2009 assembly elections, the cooperation collapsed.
The BJP got only six seats while the BJD received enough votes to form a government. In 2014, the BJD won 117 seats, the Congress 16 seats, and it won 10.

The 2019 Odisha election changed the BJP. The party won 23 seats in the legislature and became the main opposition with Congress’s declining support.
The BJD won 112 seats while the Congress gained nine. In several Odisha constituencies, the lotus (BJP) has risen, pushing the Congress to third place for the first time. The BJP won a few seats in coastal and northern Odisha, particularly in Mayurbhanj, expanding its dominance beyond western Odisha.

The party also won eight of twenty-one Lok Sabha seats, up from one in 2014.
The BJP gained 297 Zila Parishad seats in 2017 panchayat elections, up from 36 in 2012. The party has capitalised on the Congress’s Zila Parishad decline from 126 in 2012 to 60 in 2017. The BJP’s ZP tally plummeted to 42 in this year’s panchayat elections. Still, it demoted the Congress to third place with 37 ZP seats.

The BJD and BJP have dominated Odisha’s election races since the Congress’s fall. Congress has run candidates more to establish itself as a national party than to oppose the administration.

This matches the BJP’s approach of incrementally gaining ground while probing Naveen Patnaik’s administration for flaws. Patnaik’s government style and development philosophy, especially his populist Rs 1 per kg rice and Rs 5 per meal for the urban poor programmes, have been criticised.

The party’s BJD onslaught is two-pronged. It criticises the chief minister for making people dependent on government handouts to fight poverty and the ruling party for claiming credit for the affordable rice scheme. However, the Union government extensively subsidised the poor’s rice.

BJD “politics of gifts” It offers rice for 1 rupee and meals for 5 rupees to urban poor to reduce poverty. This hasn’t improved the average person’s life. Bhrigu Buxipatra, BJP state general secretary, said people are rejecting BJD’s developmental policy because it makes people dependent on the government rather than self-reliant. Even while BJD officials say people support chief minister Naveen Patnaik and his development programmes despite the Dhamnagar loss, the allegation looks to be true.

The BJD’s loss in Dhamnagar doesn’t mean the chief minister’s policies and programmes failed. BJP-held seat they defended. BJD general secretary Bijay Nayak believes his party will recover, as it has before.