The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has again established its hegemony by scoring a resounding victory in the second phase of urban local body (ULB) polls in Western Odisha. The party won a clear majority in 15 municipalities and notified area councils (NACs).
Congress suffered another humiliating defeat, within a period of three months, in the polls by winning from only one ULB. The performance of the BJP has also been dismal. The party has, however, been able to win Patnagarh NAC, the pocket borough of State president KV Singhdeo. The verdict in three ULBs was fractured.
But the comprehensive defeat in Western Odisha, in which it had a solid base, has come as a shock for the rank and file of the Congress. As the election results started tickling in pointing towards a big rout for the party, several senior leaders wanted an introspection by the leadership over the defeats.
Though there are several reasons, the blame for the Congress defeat squarely rests on president of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) Jaydev Jena. Though the BJD was on the backfoot initially over the high court bench issue, the advantage was frittered away by the Congress leadership.
No campaign committee was formed nor senior leaders were roped in to work for the party as the BJD had done. Instead, Jena campaigned for the party without taking any other leader into confidence. He campaigned in all the 20 ULBs though at some places, local leaders were hesitant to take his help. The result is a severe beating for the Congress.
The Congress defeat in Kalahandi district where it has four MLAs and the MP is surprising. The result points to the fact that the Congress is disintegrating in the area. The party lost in Bhawanipatna, Junagarh and Khariar Road. In Kesinga, Congress has emerged as the largest party winning five wards while in Khariar there is a tie between the BJD and Congress with both the parties winning six seats each.
Congress also lost in Jharsuguda, Brajrajnagar and Kantabanji which come under the constituencies of Congress MLAs. The BJD has avenged its defeat in Jharsuguda in the panchayat polls by winning Jharsuguda municipality.
The situation in Sundargarh district is similar. The Congress lost in two Sundargarh and Biramitrapur municipalities. Rajgangpur municipality remained undecided though the BJD won 10 seats out of 20 while Congress and BJP won two and three seats respectively. Five seats have gone to Independents and others.
Reacting to the defeat, former minister of Congress Niranjan Patnaik said he would have resigned from the post of OPCC president by taking moral responsibility in such a situation. Media cell chairman of OPCC Narsingh Mishra said there is an urgent need to find out the cause of the defeats and fix responsibility. Mishra was kept away from campaign and was not give any responsibility.
Senior party leader LB Mohapatra criticised State leadership for not drawing up a strategy to fight election. The election was an one man show without any involvement of other leaders and result is there for everybody to see, he said. Describing the victory as a ‘tremendous victory’ for BJD, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik thanked the people for their support to the party. Naveen also thanked the party leaders and workers for the victory.