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Odisha rejected a barrage of freebies, cash offers, and free electricity promised by Naveen Patnaik’s BJD to elect BJP

Another BJD promise included spending 1 lakh crore on youth along with increased 'scholarships' for all students who enroll in college. All college-going girls were promised Rs 14,000 annual 'scholarship' and boys a sum of Rs 12,000.

On 4th June, the results of the Odisha Assembly Election 2024 were announced. In a stunning turn of events, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) turned victorious ending the 25-year rule of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the state. This victory came despite the extensive list of freebie promises laid down by the BJP in its manifesto including 100 units of free electricity, scholarships for all students, substantial financial support for self-help groups, and more.

The electorate favoured BJP’s vision for development, job generation, and long-term solutions instead.

Naveen Patnaik, outgoing Chief Minister of the state and BJP’s supremo had launched an ambitious manifesto. It included free electricity to households consuming up to 100 units per month and partial subsidies for those who were using between 100 to 150 units of electricity. BJP claimed that the initiative would provide relief from financial burden for the low-income families, including those of farmers. Notably, a significant portion of the farmers in the state rely on electric pumps for irrigation.

Source: SS from BJD Manifesto.

Furthermore, the BJD promised significant financial support to self-help groups. Patnaik announced to earmark Rs 20,000 crore over the next ten years to empower women involved in these groups. He also promised to give pensions to the members of such groups.

To give an idea about the scale of the freebie promise, Mission Shakti boasts about 6 lakh women self-help groups, and 70 lakh women in total across the state.

Source: BJD manifesto.

Another BJD promise included spending 1 lakh crore on youth along with increased ‘scholarships’ for all students who enroll in college. All college-going girls were promised Rs 14,000 annual ‘scholarship’ and boys a sum of Rs 12,000.

Source: BJD Manifesto.

The promises looked attractive but BJP criticised BJD for coming up with the list of lucrative offers as last-minute resort to come back to power just before Odisha Assembly Election. BJP leaders, including Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, criticised BJD over the feasibility and timing of the promises. BJP leaders questioned why such benefits were not implemented in the state during the long tenure of BJD. Furthermore, they called BJD’s promises “poll gimmicks” and argued that they lacked substance and practicality.

On the other hand, the BJP gave the people of Odisha a comprehensive vision of governance. BJP promised up to 300 units of free electricity but not by subsidising the electricity bills. The promise was made via PM Surya Ghar Yojana, a central government scheme that was launched on the day of Ram Mandir Pran Prathistha in January 2024. Under this scheme, the government would install solar panels in homes promoting sustainable energy use.

Source: BJP’s Odisha manifesto

This step is aimed at reducing electricity costs and aligning with the broader environmental goals. Furthermore, the BJP focused on healthcare, infrastructure and sustainable development of the state and appeared to have appealed to the electorate leading to a change in power. Furthermore, BJP also promised to rejuvenate all 19,630 ponds and lakes in the state, install solar-power street lights in all Gram Pachayats and more.

The Odisha Assembly Election results have marked a significant shift in the political landscape of the state. Out of 147 Assembly seats, BJP won 78 seats while BJD managed to win only 51 seats. Today, Himanshu Sahu, the independent winner from the Dharmashala constituency has joined the BJP, taking the BJP tally to 79.

It showed how the state voters preferred practical and long-term solutions over immediate but possibly unsustainable freebies. It is interesting to note that parties like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have breached the electorates’ choices using freebies in Delhi and Punjab. The situation appears to be different in Odisha where the electorate rejected the freebie business altogether. Furthermore, BJP’s emphasis on issues such as unemployment and the migrant crisis has hit the nerve of the electorate in the Assembly Elections.

In a significant development, Naveen Patnaik lost the Kantabaji assembly seat to BJP’s Laxman Bag. Kantabanji is one of the places where the migrant labor crisis is at its worst. The BJP, though it picked up other issues later, had made the lack of jobs and industrialization, and the intense migrant labor crisis in Odisha one of its main campaign points.

Both HM Amit Shah and PM Modi spoke on the issue of ‘Dadan Khati’, poor Odias migrating to other states for seeking employment. “We will bring industries here. So no longer forced migration for employment”, was the key BJP promise.

For the first time in 25 years, BJD will sit in the opposition in the state. It is a signal that the voter sentiments and political dynamics of the state of Odisha have changed. The electoral outcome is going to have implications not only in the state but also in national politics. BJD always had a stronghold of the regional political landscape with Naveen Patnaik being the leader of the masses. His leadership had become synonymous with state governance. BJP managed to break the long-standing dominance reflected a broader acceptance of the saffron party in the state and showed how ground-level work despite repeated failures eventually worked in the favour of the BJP.

The BJD lost not just in the state, but got obliterated from Lok Sabha

In the 18th Lok Sabha, the BJD will have zero members. The BJP not only managed to wrestle the state government from a regional party that had enjoyed uninterrupted power for 25 years, it snatched the Lok Sabha seats from the BJD too. Out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state, BJP has won 20, and Congress 1. The BJD has been left with nothing.

ECI results data for Odisha Lok Sabha

BJP is slowly increasing its influence in the states where it never managed to win seats, be it General Elections or Assembly Elections. Take the example of the Odisha Assembly Elections or the BJP winning a seat in Kerala in the Lok Sabha Elections for the first time in history. It shows that BJP’s approach towards the electorate in these states has helped in increasing the saffron party’s influence and BJP is finally coming out of the notion that it is a “North Indian State Party”.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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