Why Odisha MPs Should Be Worried About Panchayat Polls?

Do people in Odisha vote exactly in the same manner in Panchayat and subsequent Assembly/Lok Sabha polls? Soumyajit Pattnaik analyses Panchayat Results since 2002 and draws some important conclusions

What do the panchayat polls and the subsequent Assembly and Lok Sabha election results have in common in Odisha? Do people in our state vote in a similar manner in Panchayat and subsequent Assembly/LS polls?

If we look at the results of Panchayat Polls since 2002, we can draw two broad conclusions. First, Lok Sabha results seem to be quite similar to Zilla Parishad results with certain exceptions. Second, Assembly election results do not follow the trends reflected in Panchayat Polls.

Let’s first look at the results of the last four Panchayat Polls and the subsequent Assembly and Lok Sabha results. So far as MLA and MP elections are concerned, the BJD and BJP fought as allies till 2004 and before 2009 General Elections, they parted ways.

Let’s first look at the 2007 Panchayat Poll results and the 2009 Assembly/LS polls.

In 2007 Panchayat Polls, the BJD won 345 Zilla Parishad seats, the Congress 303 and the BJP won 129 ZP seats. In the 2009 Assembly polls, BJD won 103 MLA seats, Congress 27 and the BJP 6 MLA seats. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, BJD won 14 MP seats, Congress 6 and 1 from CPI. The Congress did well in ZP polls and the same trend was repeated in LS polls too.

One can note that the Congress won more Zilla Parishad seats in 2007 than what the BJP won in 2017. The Congress in 2007 had won 345 ZP seats while the BJP in 2017 Panchayat Polls won 297 ZP seats. In 2007, the Congress trailed by only 42 ZP seats, but in Assembly polls BJD got 76 MLA seats more than the Congress in 2009. Thus there is no similarity in voting patterns in ZP and Assembly polls. Since the Congress won 6 MP seats in 2009, we can infer that the ZP poll results were similar to the LS polls.

In 2012 Panchayat elections, BJD won 651 Zilla Parishad seats, Congress 128 and the BJP 36 ZP seats. In the 2014 Assembly polls, the BJD won 117 MLA seats, the Congress 16 and the BJP 10 seats. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJD won 20 MP seats. The landslide victory of the BJD in 2012 Zilla Parishad poll was reflected in the 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha results. 651 ZP seats for BJD in 2012 was translated to 117 MLA seats and 20 MP seats in 2014 polls.

In 2017 Panchayat Polls, BJD won 476 Zilla Parishad seats, BJP 297 and the Congress 60 ZP seats. In 2019 Assembly polls, BJD won 112 MLA seats, BJP 23 and the Congress 9 MLA seats. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJD won 12 MP seats, BJP 8 and Congress 1 MP seats. The good performance of the BJP in the Zilla Parishad polls in 2017 was reflected in the 2019 Lok Sabha results, if not in the Assembly polls.

The above three Panchayat polls in 2007, 2012 and 2017 and the subsequent elections in 2009, 2014 and 2019 show that the some sort of a pattern emerges. From this pattern, we can draw 3 important conclusions.

Zilla Parishad voting pattern in a way is a pointer to how the they will exercise their franchise in the subsequent Lok Sabha polls. Congress won 6 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 after winning 303 ZP seats in 2007 Panchayat polls. Similarly, BJP won 8 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 after winning 297 ZP seats in 2017.

While voters have shown an inclination to vote for the same parties in ZP and Lok Sabha polls, they have voted predominantly for the BJD in Assembly polls. The projection of Naveen Patnaik as BJD’s CM face contributes substantially to the party’s stupendous performance in successive Assembly polls. But in Zilla Parishad and Lok Sabha polls, people don’t vote to make Naveen Patnaik as CM. Therefore, the results vary in ZP, Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress had won 303 ZP seats in 2007 and 6 MP seats in 2009. As the Congress ZP tally plummeted to only 128 in 2012 polls, its Lok Sabha tally too dwindled to zero.

That brings us to draw another conclusion: Unless a party does well in ZP elections, its chances of winning MP seats in subsequent polls don’t look bright at all.

2022 Panchayat Polls will be the 5th rural polls during the uninterrupted tenure of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik since 2000. There have been four rural polls in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017 during CM Naveen’s tenure.

In all the Panchayat polls since 2002, BJD has won maximum seats. But in 2002 and 2007, the Congress didn’t lag far behind. In 2002, the BJD won 291 ZP seats and the Congress 283 seats. The BJP won 183 ZP seats in 2002. Thus one can see that the Congress was in a much better position than they were in 2017 when they won just 60 ZP seats.

In 2002, BJD formed Zilla Parishads in 12 districts, the Congress in 10 districts, BJP in seven districts and the JMM in just 1. In 2007 Panchayat polls, the BJD formed Zilla Parishads in 15 districts, Congress in 11, BJP in 2, JMM and Independent in 1 district each.

There are many reasons why alliance between the BJD and BJP got ruptured in 2009. But the most plausible reason is the BJP performance in the 2007 Panchayat polls. BJP ZP tally in 2007 slumped to 129 from 183 seats in 2002.

Similarly, while the BJP headed ZPs in 7 districts in 2002, it could manage to head ZPs only in 2 districts in 2007. The BJD won 54 ZP seats more in 2007 than in 2002. Similarly, the Congress won 20 ZPs seats more in 2007 than in 2002. On the other hand, BJP suffered a loss of 54 ZP seats in 2007 compared to 2002 polls. The loss of the 54 ZP seats and 5 districts in 2007 gave strong indications that the saffron party’s popularity was waning compared to what it was earlier.

There are many reasons being discussed for the BJD-BJP split in 2009. But the primary reason was the BJP performance in 2007 panchayat polls. In the 2009 Assembly polls, BJP won only six MLA seats and could not win a single MP seat. After the BJD and the Congress almost ran neck to neck in 2007 panchayat polls and the BJP performance was dismal, the alliance got severed.

The 2017 Panchayat Poll results were not the worst for the BJD while for the BJP it was the best since 2002. If we look at the results, 2017 was BJD’s second best performance since 2002. Some may say that BJD-BJP alliance was intact till 2009 and hence prior results don’t matter for alliance constituents. Despite the alliance, the BJD and BJP fought against each other in all the rural and urban polls from 2000 to 2009.

Also read: 25 years of struggle, celebration & defiance for the BJD

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