Bhubaneswar: When we talk about politics, we are really talking about the everyday things that matter to us: the ability to make a decent living, the ability to buy products at a fair price, the ability to plan our families, the ability to be safe, and the right to be respected by other members of society. So political developments cannot be seen or dismissed as mere happenings and here we draw a list of top five political news/developments of Odisha in 2019.
1. BJD Beats Anti-Incumbency, Naveen Patnaik Returns For Fifth Term
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) despite a supposedly anti-incumbency factor and the nation’s mood swing in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party-Bharatiya Janata Party, Naveen Patnaik and his party came out a clear winner in the Assembly election for the fifth consecutive term by winning 112 seats out of the 146 seats for which polls were held, thus establishing the invincibility of Naveen Patnaik.
Not only that the party could manage to increase its vote share in the Assembly though marginally from 43.9% in 2014 to 44.7% in 2019.
However, the party which had won 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the State in the 2014 polls could manage to win 12 seats, the BJP got 8 and Congress 1.
It may be pointed out here that BJP after its upsurge in the three-tier panchayat elections in the western part of the State had scaled up its activities and had shifted focus to Odisha and West Bengal in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections 2019 to compensate for any possible seat loss elsewhere in the country.
This had left the BJD visibly worried and the party got prepared for a tougher battle especially in western Odisha and Naveen announced to fight the polls from two constituencies his home turf Hinjli and Bijepur in western Odisha’s Bargarh district which helped BJD in the Assembly polls.
What surprised many political observers across the country was the split voting pattern in the State which they believed to be unique and a sign of a maturing democracy.
2. Bijepur Bypoll: BJD’s Rita Sahu Registers Landslide Victory
Governance model epitomized by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik came out shining again with Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD’s) candidate Rita Sahu winning the byelection for Bijepur constituency with the highest-ever-margin in the eastern State’s history of Assembly polls, thus giving the Opposition BJP and Congress too many things to worry about.
BJD candidate Rita Sahu won the bypoll by a margin of 97,990 votes. The margin even surpassed the 57,122 margin of votes that Patnaik himself had secured in the constituency just six months ago.
Patnaik had vacated the Bijepur seat to retain his old Assembly seat of Hinjli, which necessitated the bypoll. The fact that Patnaik had vacated the Bijepur seat in favour of Hinjli his old Assembly seat had given the Opposition parties much ammunition in the poll campaigns.
The BJP, which become the State’s main Opposition party, had mounted an energetic and fractious campaign, accusing Patnaik of betraying Bijepur and the entire western region of Odisha.
The voters of Bijepur evidently rejected calls from BJP leaders such as Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and party vice-president Baijayanta Panda to “teach BJD and Patnaik a lesson” in this election.
This bypoll being the third election in the constituency in 20 months, voter turnout this time (78.96%) was less than that in the two previous polls — 79.28% in the April polls and 82.17% in the February 2018 bypoll.
However, the results showed that the ruling BJD’s vote share rose by about 14.1 percentage points since the April polls while that of BJP and Congress dipped by about 8.28 and 4.56 percentage points. Sahu got 73.87 percent of the votes polled (1, 35,949), while the BJP’s Sanat Kumar Gartia and Congress’s Dilip Kumar Panda got 20.63 percent (37,955) and 3.19 percent (5,871), respectively.
3. Patkura Verdict: Naveen’s Longtime Bete Noire Bites The Dust
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s longtime opponent Bijoy Mohapatra lost the Patkura assembly constituency election to the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s Savitri Agarwalla by a margin of 17,655 votes in July.
Political observers feel that the Patkura verdict has brought an end to the two-decade-long battle between Patnaik and the 69-year-old Mohapatra.
Agarwalla secured 95,162 votes and Mohapatra, a former minister and a senior BJP leader got 77,507. Congress candidate Jayant Mohanty lost his security deposit as he polled a little more than 2,000 votes. The win in Patkura took BJD’s tally in the 147-member Odisha Assembly to 113.
The election for the Patkura assembly constituency in Kendrapara district was held after the BJD’s candidate and former minister Bed Prakash Agarwalla died on April 20, days before the constituency went to polls.
The BJD then chose his widow Savitri Agarwalla as the party’s candidate. Though the poll was to be held on May 19, it was deferred after Cyclone Fani swept through several parts of coastal Odisha.
Though Mohapatra made a fervent and perhaps his last attempt to enter the Odisha Assembly after a gap of 19 years lost the battle.
4. RS Bypolls: BJD Extends Support To BJP Nominee
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) despite having a clear majority in the State to get three of its candidates elected to the Rajya Sabha endorsed a BJP nominee Ashwini Vaishnaw, a former 1994 Odisha cadre bureaucrat.
The BJD fielded party’s IT Cell head and former Principal Accountant General Amar Patnaik and party spokesperson Sasmit Patra and extended support to BJP’s nominee Vaishnaw from Odisha.
The BJD in a statement said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had both spoken to party president Naveen Patnaik seeking his party’s support for Vaishnaw.
Two BJD candidates and the BJP nominee Vaishnaw supported by the regional party were on June 28 elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Odisha in the by-elections held for three vacant seats in the State.
The bypolls were conducted to the three vacant seats after BJD’s Achyuta Samanta, Pratap Keshari Deb, and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik resigned from the Rajya Sabha following their election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly.
Sasmit Patra was elected to the Rajya Sabha in place of Pratap Keshari Deb, who has got elected to the State Assembly. His tenure as a Rajya Sabha member will be for three years till 2022.
Amar Patnaik and Ashwini Vaishnaw were elected in place of Achyuta Samanta and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik respectively. Both of them will be Rajya Sabha members for five years till 2024.
5. Cycle-riding Pratap Sarangi Storms Lutyens’ Delhi
Cycle-riding Pratap Chandra Sarangi, the 64-year-old first -time Member of Parliament from Balasore, getting inducted in PM Narendra Modi’s Cabinet as a Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairy, and Fisheries surprised many.
Sarangi’s oath-taking at the Rashtrapati Bhawan forecourt on June 1 got the maximum applause from not only his party colleagues but the audience as well.
Sarangi defeated industrialist turned politician Rabindra Kumar Jena, a sitting MP of the BJD from Balasore with over 12,000 votes. He is the only one from among the eight BJP MPs who won from Odisha, to be inducted in the Cabinet.
Modi even dropped Jual Oram, who won from the Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat for the second time and was the Tribal Affairs Minister in his previous Cabinet.
Always seen in a pair of white cotton kurta-pyjamas, Sarangi drew the attention of social media and the mainstream media for his campaigning style which was markedly different. While his contestants had a fleet of SUVs to traverse the constituency and hired professional campaign managers and election management agencies, Sarangi conducted auto-rickshaw rallies and pedalled his way on a bicycle.