Bijepur Move Helps Naveen Capture Popular Imagination

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday filed his nomination from Hinjili, becoming the first BJD leader to file nominations this election season. He is soon expected to file his nomination from the second seat he is contesting, Bijepur in western Odisha. According to news portal The Wire, he has “thrown a googly” at the Opposition by deciding to contest from Bijepur, apart from Hinjili that has been sending him to the Assembly since 2000.

He has shown “sure-footedness”, while taking both the BJP and the Congress by surprise. In fact, he has made the first move on every front – announcing candidates first, while the Opposition parties are still witnessing infighting over tickets, news portal The Wire said in an opinion piece.

Adivasi and Dalit-dominated western Odisha is one of the poorest regions in the state. Both the Congress and the BJP have been trying to make inroads there. While pre-poll surveys indicate a shift in mood against the BJD in the region, “Patnaik’s decision to contest from two seats for the first time appears to address the problem head-on,” BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb was quoted as telling The Wire.

According to the portal, Deb acknowledged his party was facing anti-incumbency in the western region. The party’s selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha also reflects its strategy to beat anti-incumbency. Out of nine candidates it announced, eight are new but prominent faces. They include Pramila Bisoi, who has steered the self-help group movement among women, from Aska constituency.

By fielding her, the party is also eyeing the large female electorate. The BJD was the first Indian party to announce that it will field at least 33 per cent women candidates for the Parliamentary polls.

Since the BJD’s new strategy has also led to many leaders leaving the party, Patnaik offset the losses by capturing headlines. His decision to contest from two seats is a case in point. Both the Congress and the BJP are hoping to make a mark in the state. But for that, they will have to tackle an incumbent regional party – one that has held power for over 19 years while “outmaneuvering” rivals with relative ease, The Wire said.