The infighting within BJD is affecting the party’s prospects in at least 10 Assembly constituencies

It is for the first time that Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik is fighting the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections alone. Surprisingly, he is having a tough time in coastal Odisha, one of his party’s strongholds.

As the coastal and northern regions of the State are scheduled to go to the polls on April 17, Mr. Patnaik is leaving no stone unturned by addressing a series of public meetings seeking votes for his party nominees. There was no number-2 leader in the party to share his burden, and he has engaged many Odia film stars to draw crowds at party rallies.

This is for the first time that the BJD is fighting the elections without having alliance or seat-sharing arrangement with any other party, and Mr. Patnaik having no known advisor.

Bureaucrat-turned politician Pyarimohan Mohapatra, who earlier used to manage elections for the BJD, is not with Mr. Patnaik since 2012.

Mr. Mohapatra, however, has not succeeded in strengthening the Odisha Janmorcha that he had founded after Mr. Patnaik ousted him for engineering a failed coup attempt against him almost two years ago. Mr. Patnaik and his party colleagues are happy that Mr. Mohapatra’s party had failed to cause much harm to their party’s electoral prospects.

Mr. Patnaik and his lieutenants, however, are facing an uphill task since BJP had emerged as the third major contender across the State by riding the ‘Modi wave’, even though the main opposition, Congress, had remained weak due to factionalism.

Even though the BJD alone had, in the 2009 elections, won nine of the 11 Lok Sabha constituencies and around 70 of 77 the Assembly seats going to the polls on April 17, Mr. Patnaik was also finding the going tough because of infighting in the party in many areas.

The infighting within BJD is affecting the party’s prospects in at least 10 Assembly constituencies. Many of his party’s Lok Sabha members, Ministers and sitting legislators are also facing the anti-incumbency factor.

Mr. Patnaik continues to blame the Congress-led government at the Centre for allegedly neglecting the cause of Odisha, and criticise the Bharatiya Janata Party, stressing the need to prevent the saffron party in forming government at the Centre.

Mr. Patnaik continues his assurances to fulfil his father’s dreams of building a prosperous and developed Odisha, to thinning crowds at his rallies, in a bid to gain votes for his party nominees in the State for the fourth consecutive time.

The opposition parties have already started criticising his promise as the State was carrying the ‘Most Backward’ tag even after he had ruled for 14 years. The outcome of the polls, being held amid the ‘Modi wave’ campaign, may prove the pollster wrong if voters shy away from the BJD in coastal Odisha for varied reasons.