TNI Bureau: It was a ‘Do or Die’ Mission for Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and they left no stones unturned to seal it in their favour. The party and its leaders invested all their energy, strength, resources and fighting skills in Padampur and tasted success. Stature of BJD President and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik increased manifold while BJD managed to beat the narrative that it’s days are numbered.
Despite the emphatic win, BJD knows how much efforts it had to put to secure it. If one bypoll required such massive efforts, the ‘Battle of 2024’ won’t be a cakewalk for the party, thanks to anti-incumbency, strong under-current and infighting in various places.
The party, which witnessed rebellion, indiscipline and arrogance of leaders in Dhamnagar, focused on unity, team work and discipline in Padampur, which paid off during the bypoll. #TNI
Despite having in an advantageous position in the beginning, BJP suffered the unprecedented defeat due to its lack of planning and lacklusture approach on the ground. The party needs course correction if it wants to fight the ruling party in Odisha.
When it comes to Congress, it does not even require a mention. The only thing, which was being debated from the very beginning till the end – where will the Congress votes go? There are answers and interpretations too. But, one thing became clear that Congress is on the verge of extinction in Odisha.
Let’s take a look at what happened in Padampur:
🔴 Micro Management: Soon after the demise of late MLA Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha, the Western Odisha leaders rushed to Padampur to take stock of the situation. Master strategist Susanta Singh started the review process. Top bosses monitored everything. The BJD soon realised that there is no sympathy for the Bariha family due to several factors and anti-incumbency and under-current against the party as well as BJP Candidate Pradip Purohit’s good rapport and public contact have given a clear edge to the saffron party. #TNI #TheNewsInsight
The BJD top brass, an independent political consulting agency and other senior leaders went into the huddle. Loopholes of Dhamnagar, were fixed. Those, who were at the receiving end, were removed. Senior leaders, especially the Western Odisha leaders like Susanta Singh, Prasanna Acharya, Naba Das, Pushpendra Singhdeo, Sadhu Nepak, Niranjan Pujari, Rajendra Dholakia, Sujeet Kumar and others were roped in. Coastal leaders Raja Swain, Pratap Jena, Debi Prasad Mishra, Samir Dash, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Sudhir Samal and South Odisha leaders Pradeep Majhi and Ramesh Majhi played their part effectively.
BJD’s Organisational Secretary Pranab Prakash Das and other leaders started camping in Padampur region from November 9/10 and spread their base to the panchayat/ward level. And, they did not leave till the campaigning/polling was over. They met people, listened to their grievances, swallowed the negative feedback with all humility, tried to convince them, helped them with spot approvals, benefits and assurances. All the demands were fulfilled instantly. There was no scope for a NO. Never before we saw leaders instantly digging borewells, installing street lights and painting the walls of schools, temples and clubs during a bypoll instead of just making a promise.
BJD strategists also roped in grassroots leaders from BJP and Congress. Those leaders played a key role in booth management, which BJP could not. BJD workers and leaders were visible everywhere and stayed with the people for almost a month whereas BJP workers had gone missing. The political pundits failed to understand why and how they disappeared in such a crucial battle, giving a clear edge to BJD, which started the fight on a losing pitch. #TNI #TheNewsInsight
BJP did not have enough workers at the booth level, which made BJD wonder whether they were working on a different strategy. But, as it turned out later, there was no strategy at all and the saffron party relied more on anti-incumbency and Kuna Purohit, leaving the ground open for BJD to bat with ease.
🔴 Sympathy Factor: Believe or not, there wasn’t any sympathy factor in Padampur. Rather, several equations were going against Barsha Singh Bariha. BJD still stuck to her and strategised the entire polls. Their main focus was to gain maximum votes from the Binjhal community, which has a sizeable population in Padampur and the women voters. Both worked in BJD’s favour in the end.
🔴 Caste Equation: What’s the best way to beat massive anti-incumbency? It’s caste or religion based politics. There was no scope for the politics based on religion in Odisha. So, caste factor was carefully chosen. Whether Binjhal, Meher, Kulta, or Teli and Yadav, BJD strategists reached out to all communities and fulfilled their demands. #TNI #TheNewsInsight
This is probably the first time caste equations played such an important role in Odisha politics. Team Naveen had no other option but to play this gamble and succeeded. Induction of Mahendra Badhai a few days before the polls, helped BJD get the maximum Kulta Samaj votes.
🔴 Susanta Singh Factor: Of late, Susanta Singh has emerged as the Master Strategist of BJD in Western Odisha. Despite losing the Ministerial berth, he continued to work. He was instrumental in giving BJD’s massive victory in the bypolls of Bijepur 2019 and Brajarajnagar 2022. In Padampur, he led from the front and never gave an inch to the opposition. Major part of the credit for BJD’s unprecedented win in Padampur will go to Susanta Singh. #TheNewsInsight
🔴 Naba Das Factor: Another Western Odisha stalwart Naba Das played an important role in BJD’s strategy to woo the Congress voters and others. His daughter Deepali Das, who has been active, worked with full dedication and showed that she is ready to carry forward the legacy of her father.
🔴 No Sabotage within the BJD: There was a huge resentment among the BJD leaders and karyakartas over the functioning of some youth leaders. Seniors felt snubbed and neglected. Most of them wanted the party to lose in Dhamnagar to teach a lesson to one section in the party. However, in Padampur, everyone got responsibility and importance. They fought as a unit. The individual responsibility made them feel empowered and they worked hard to achieve their target. CM Naveen Patnaik directly monitored and reviewed the Padampur Bypoll and talked to the senior leaders via Video Conferencing, which energized them further. #TNI #TheNewsInsight
On the other hand, Susanta Singh and Naba Das along with Team Bobby Das played a key role in sabotaging Dharmendra Pradhan’s campaign by diverting the vehicles and crowd with their effective strategy.
🔴 Tribal Votes: Tribal voters always played a key role in Padampur. BJD’s top tribal leaders – Pradeep Majhi and Ramesh Majhi were deployed in areas with huge tribal vote shares. With their vast experience in election management in the ground, they contributed significantly to swing the tribal votes in BJD’s favour. #TNI #TheNewsInsight
🔴 Key Agitation in Padampur: Whether demand for a separate District, Farmers’ agitation or Kendu Leaves demands, BJD had to win over the farmers, intellectuals, lawyers and they almost got there. Except for the case of Kendu leaves farmers, the party convinced all others to support its candidate.
🔴 Negative Campaign: ‘Unwarranted’ statements of Senior BJP leaders Jual Oram and Aparajita Sarangi against Barsha Singh Bariha, damaged the party’s prospects to a great extent. Despite having less sympathy for Bariha family, people of Padampur could not accept the tirade against Barsha. She and her party played the ‘victim card’ effectively, putting the BJP on back foot. #TNI #TheNewsInsight
🔴 Congress Votes: BJP was confident of getting the Congress votes as they have been traditionally anti-BJD in Padampur. But, 3-time MLA Satya Bhusan Sahu surrendered without a fight to lose his deposits. While BJP just waited for the Congress voters to vote for the party, BJD managed their leaders at the grassroots level. BJP was complacent and they had to pay a heavy price.
Although Congress had secured 32,787 votes in 2019 assembly polls, the number was reduced to almost 15,000 during the panchayat polls. Finally, it came down to 3594 in the 2022 bypoll. It would be unfair to say that BJD won just because of Congress votes. They won in each and every segment. #TheNewsInsight
🔴 Naveen Patnaik’s Padampur Visit: Contrary to the narrative that Naveen’s visit to Padampur did the magic, BJD strategists were assured of a victory of 30,000+ margin way back on November 29. That ensured CM’s visit to Padampur. Naveen hates the situation where he would take a risk on a losing pitch to bail out the team. Naveen loves to win and win only. And, he believes he has done enough to expect this.
Naveen standing with Barsha firmly, personally interacting with various community leaders and announcing a Padampur district by 2023, made good impact and reassured the voters that they were doing the right choice. Whatever doubts they had in mind, were cleared. #Insight
🔴 Unsung Warriors: There are many unsung warriors of BJD who worked round the clock in their wards and panchayats and ensured that their voters stayed intact and did not deviate. They even ensured a record voter turnout in Padampur. They are the real heroes of this win. That’s what BJP lacks in Odisha. A strategist like Manmohan Samal was missing in Padampur. There wasn’t any leader who could motivate and monitor the karyakartas on the ground. #TNI
🔴 Victory Margin: Everyone expected a tough fight in Padampur, thanks to Pradip Purohit’s ground connect, public outreach, Dharmendra Pradhan’s whirlwind campaign and strong under-current against the BJD. But, BJD’s effective election management strategy changed the game and resulted in an unprecedented victory margin, which nobody imagined a fortnight ago. BJD strategists and leaders on the ground started predicted a 30,000+ margin a week before the polling day. And, it came true.
🔴 Lessons for BJP: The Dhamnagar hangover sank BJP in Padampur. Their first priority is course correction. They must understand even if people are unhappy and angry, they expect you to reach out to them and stay with them. BJD did the course correction in Padampur, but BJP ignored the basic rules. #TheNewsInsight
However, there are positive signs. The BJP leaders showed rare unity despite the differences. Dharmendra Pradhan worked hard and spent good amount of time in campaigning despite ill health. Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw shed his “neutral” tag and challenged the BJD Government directly. Dharmendra did not obstruct Jay Panda and Aparajita from campaigning in Padampur although the Bhubaneswar MP messed it up. Dharmendra took Suresh Pujari into confidence in every crucial matter. #TNI #TheNewsInsight
The biggest lesson from Padampur is booth management. The BJP continues to lag behind in that arena. That needs to be fixed if the party is hopeful of a good fight in 2024. Management of Congress votes holds the key too. And, they should focus on key issues, not on slander campaign.
BJD is winning, but is not invincible. BJP is losing, but can bounce back. In the 2024 polls, BJD will defend its 24-year-long rule while BJP will get a chance to attack. The battle will be very interesting unless both parties decide to call truce “yet again”.