Not a Cakewalk Election

The twin assembly polls of Odisha & Andhra may throw some surprises not yet gulped by the poll pundits.


Just like every election, the opposition parties would want us to believe that anti-incumbency has kicked in Odisha & Andhra & that the Patnaik & Naidu governments were serving their last few days in office. On the platter, are high stakes for both the incumbents as well as the main opposition, the BJP who after having suffered unanticipated defeats in Hindi heartland, would want to make good those losses from these states, going to polls, simultaneously with Lok Sabha elections.

In this relation, the selection of candidates is going to be a decisive factor in Odisha polls, where BJD has been facing some sort of inner party bickering of late. We have never seen the political landscape of Odisha, this vitiated, given that both the state & Lok Sabha elections are happening simultaneously. Quite naturally, we expect a tougher fight among the three major political parties and the pointer in this direction is the high decibel campaign rhetoric already on display. The general belief is that no longer shall this be a cake walk for the ruling BJD, given that Naveen Patnaik’s party has been in power for almost 19 years now & that seeds of discontent, that lay dormant all till now, have begun to surface to the core. While selection of candidates is going to a major challenge before the CM, with so many aspirants from BJP & Congress having joined the BJD rank & file, it remains to be seen if the party can ward of these sticking points to cruise the record 5th time.

The downside though has been the widespread distress among farmers coupled with anti-incumbency against the government. Despite the last ditch effort by the government bringing in KALIA, the party wouldn’t have it easy in the upcoming elections. The simultaneous holding of elections may not also be in favour of the incumbent with BJP pitching its stalwart campaigner cum performer in Modi versus Naveen Patnaik. This would make the BJD nervous. BJP after it’s outstanding performance in the panchayat elections, would be certainly hoping to en-cash the feel good factor for a better show in 2019 elections. Its leaders including parry chief Ami Shah have hinted at a tally of 120 plus seats in these state elections. Yet the lack of connect with the masses & not so strong leaders at the grassroots level may act dampener in its prospects. Regardless, This is one contest to look out for come May 2019.

Andhra has a slightly dissimilar story though. Even when the farmer distress is a common irritant of an issue for all political parties across India, Chandra Babu Naidu has been facing a series of disadvantages in his home state. His fate is somewhat similar to that of Mehbooba Mufti, the erstwhile ally of BJP in J & K , where just like Andhra, the local population can’t get over the angst & frustration, arising out of a betrayal by the BJP to its local ally in particular & the state in general. With TRS and YSRCP having joined hands together, the going would be tough for the clean man image of Chandra Babu Naidu. These may be early leads to what is promising to be a gripping election between the three major political dispensations. Curiously a positive outcome for the TRS, YSRCP combine shall further catapult KCR image as a kingmaker should a hung house throw up in the Lok Sabha. Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy completed a 3,650-kilometre padayatra (foot march) earlier this month. Interestingly, such a march was earlier taken up by his late father YS Rajasekhara Reddy and rival Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu. KCR incidentally has been meeting political leaders including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to cobble up a non-BJP, non-Congress ‘Federal Front’. However, with no commitments so far, response to the proposed front has been lukewarm. There is strong buzz that YSRCP is the most favoured political party of Andhra Pradesh. It has made some remarkable strides in its journey & the people of the state feel like punishing Chandra Babu Naidu for letting them down on the promise of a special status to Andhra Pradesh. TDP combining with the Congress has also not gone down well with the voters. The contest may get close in coming days, with Naidu having raised the ante by sitting on a fast in Delhi; the strong alliance may well work against his prospects in the coming elections.

BJP has very little to hope for in the state as well as for the Lok Sabha polls being dubbed as ENEMY NO. 1 of Andhra’s interests & its people; It is the undisputed villain in the current scenario with people believing that BJP did not accord the special status that it had promised to the state. That is why Naidu is largely losing out to its opponents who are exploiting the situation to the hilt. To put things in perspective, in 2014 general election, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 17 out of the 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh (TDP and BJP winning 15 and two, respectively). YSRCP had won eight seats while the Congress was wiped out. It may quite be the reverse phenomenon with TSR & YSRCP combine taking the larger share & TDP + Congress the immediate second. BJP in all probabilities may draw a blank. That is bad news for the party that had been toiling hard to win most of the 125 Lok Sabha seats, which have been left untouched by the party so far. It is also necessary for the party so that it can compensate for the loss in the northern and western states which the party is apprehensive about.

It is a matter of days before we knew who the people would have elected to the throne in two politically significant states. One thing is certain though that the winds of change have begun to blow across the length & breadth of our nation.