Outcome likely to influence next year’s Lok Sabha, Assembly elections in a big way

The polls being held in 66 urban local bodies of the State on Thursday is going to be an acid test for Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik.

Even though the civic polls were being held in the regions that were strongholds of the BJD, the party has found itself in a shaky position as there seemed to be an urge among the people for a change.

Polls were not being held in 25 urban local bodies in western Odisha where the party had performed badly in the 2009 polls.

Since assuming power as the Chief Minister for the first time in March 2000, Mr. Patnaik has always taken elections seriously.

In fact, it is said that he starts preparing for the next polls soon after the BJD win in any election. But the polls in as many as 1,103 wards in the 66 urban local bodies is being considered to be a do-or-die situation for the BJD since its outcome will influence the next year’s Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in a big way. Further, Mr. Patnaik is facing the polls in so many urban local bodies for the first time without his one-time trusted lieutenant Pyarimohan Mohapatra. The BJD had suffered defeat in all the three newly-formed notified area councils at Attabira, Nuapada and Hindol where elections were held in April this year. Opposition Congress was emerged victorious in the three NACs.

Things have become tough for Mr. Patnaik this time round although Mr. Mohapatra’s Odisha Jan Morcha was not contesting the civic polls in the 66 urban local bodies. Mr. Mohapatra, however, has called upon the people to defeat the candidates of the BJD in Thursday’s urban local body polls.

That Mr. Patnaik was very serious about the outcome of the polls was evident from the strategy he has adopted to make the party win.

Not only Mr. Patnaik himself campaigned extensively in a majority of urban local bodies, but also he engaged his Ministers and legislators to concentrate on particular towns to oversee the party campaign. Further, the BJD also engaged the maximum number of film actors to campaign in support of its nominees.

On the other hand, the current civic polls were no less important for the Congress which had remained out of power in the State since 2000. It was also a prestige issue for Odisha Pradesh Congress president Jayadev Jena as Congress was facing the civic polls after his appointment as the head of the party in the State for the second time.

In a way, the Thursday’s polls were equally crucial for both the BJD and the Congress as they would prepare their strategy for the next Assembly elections based on their current performance — Mr. Patnaik for a fourth consecutive term as Chief Minister and the Congress for a comeback in the State.