Election Results in Odisha: Welfarism against Hindutva

The results of the election in Odisha highlight two important aspects of competitive electoral politics in the state. Firstly, “battle of images” between Naveen Patnaik as a simple and committed prime minister and Narendra Modi as the powerful and decisive Prime Minister ultimately decided the outcome of the elections. Secondly, the election contest was a clear controversy between Odisha in the countryside – relying on positive interest and action – and on the ambitious urban Odisha, whose minority power wants to emerge as a relevant medium class. politically. Therefore, the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the stability of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the state in Odisha's changing political world must be adequately addressed.

This section makes a modest attempt to answer three basic questions. Firstly, why did the BJD achieve a comfortable victory (both in assembly and in Lok Sabha) despite the popularity of Modi in the state? Secondly, how did the BJP easily replace Congress as the main opposition party in the state? And thirdly, why are the ideas of welfarism, good governance and empowerment of women still relevant as election issues in Odisha?

The Lok Sabha Verdict

Odisha had experience of the simultaneous elections which were much talked about at this time. The voters had the privilege of electing members of the legislative assembly to the state assembly and members of Parliament for the Lok Sabha. In such an interesting case, the BJD won 12 out of 21 seats Lok Sabha, with a significant vote share of about 42% (Table 1). While the BJD was unable to repeat its performance in 2014, when it destroyed all other parties by winning 20 seats, the party successfully defended its political presence in the state. Despite losing eight seats, the BJD voting share did not change significantly from the last Lok Sabha elections. This success story was also repeated in the assembly elections. The BJD did not win 112 out of 146 seats (a clear majority of three quarters) but also increased its voting share. Most Odisha voters expressed confidence in Patnaik's leadership.

However, the presence of the BJP in the state should not be underestimated. The party won eight seats Lok Sabha, with a voting share over 38% (an increase of 17 percentage points compared to elections Lok Sabha 2014) (Table 1). This performance is also reflected in the elections. While the party only received 23 seats in the assembly this time, its voting share went up to about 32% (15% higher than the 2014 assembly election) (Table 1). This remarkable performance has transformed the BJP as a key opposition in Odisha.

The success of the BJP is closely linked to the political decline of Congress. Despite winning the Koraput Lok Sabha seat, the vote fell sharply this time. The party was unable to make good progress at the assembly elections. He had only achieved nine seats with an almost insignificant voting share of around 16% (Table 1).

These facts highlight two important points. Firstly, while voters in Odisha remained aware of the crucial difference between the opinion polls and the national elections, their voting preferences did not change significantly. In other words, the national issues have been demonstrated through the use of state-specific political vocabulary. Secondly, voters changed. The rise of the BJP as a significant player proves that voters responded positively to the powerful BJP campaign aimed at Modi.

Naveen versus Narendra

We must note that both the BJD and BJP depended heavily on the competitive images of Naveen Patnaik and Modi. The BJD relies on the leadership culture of its leaders; Biju Patnaik and now Naveen Patnaik for a long time.1 On the other hand, the BJP had found Modi as a decisive national leader, who could make tough decisions.

The Center for Development Society Studies (CSDS) – a lokniti post-poll survey attempted to map the conflict. Interestingly, the vast majority of respondents (two in three) identified Patnaik as the most suitable person for the position of prime minister. When respondents were asked to express personal preferences about these two leaders, almost half of respondents (47%) chose Patnaik and just over a quarter (26%) said they liked Modi.

However, this does not mean that the Odisha family did not pay attention to the phenomenon Modi. The survey shows that even the BJD voters recognize Modi's strong leadership. As for the question of who the next Prime Minister, the BJD voters argued that Modi should get another chance. More than three in five respondents, who preferred Patnaik (when asked to choose between the two in question) received support for Modi for the post of Prime Minister. Among the BJD voters, 9 out of 10 (90%) wanted Patnaik to be the prime minister and more than two-thirds (68%) said they would like to be Prime Minister (although they voted for). BJD in the Lok Sabha election (Table 2).

The BJP was clearly able to build a positive image of Modi in the state. However, this manifestation of Modi as a confident and assertive national could not help the party translate the Modi phenomenon into election success for two reasons.

First of all, the command of state level is possible if the BJP fails the BJD to overtake, especially with the Sabba Lok. For example, Dharmendra Pradhan, leader of the BJP, tried to create Odiaha's authentic image outside Odisha. However, the formation of the BJD party was smart enough to cope with Pradhan in many ways and he did not allow him to make space for himself in the average discourse as an alternative. Our survey shows that BJP voters were still concerned about Pradhan's leadership skills. Only 17% of BJP voters said it should be the next prime minister of the state, with almost five-fifths of Patnaik supported. It shows that Patnaik emerged as leader of the final state level.

Secondly, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) link could not provide the desired results to the party. The RSS, at least in Odisha, attempted to present itself as a cultural organization dedicated to the interests of the Hindus.2 The organization has, however, surrendered its traditional strategy to provide indirect support to the BJP in recent years. The RSS is now openly involved in an election mobilization for the BJP. This direct involvement by the RSS in emerging electoral politics has been counter productive. The defeat of Sambit Patra (constituency of Puri Lok Sabha) emphasizes the fact that the RSS was not able to transform Hinduism Odisha into something commonly known as Hindutva.3

Governance as an Election Issue

The competition between the BJD and the BJP should not be completely reduced to the popularity of Modi and Patnaik. The survey also shows that voters evaluate the performance of these two parties – the BJD in the state and the BJP in the center. Most respondents argued that they were satisfied with the performance of state government as well as the national government.Table 3). This result is powerful in two ways. Firstly, it not only emphasizes the political maturity of Odisha voters, who seem to apply different criteria to assess the concept of governance as a whole. Secondly, voters do not appear to be particularly concerned about the ideological positions mentioned by political parties. Odisha's specific socialism of the BJD and Odia Hindutva do not influence the BJP to vote on ideological lines.

These results can be read in the style of governance. Patnaik has a dedicated team of bureaucrats who manage various welfare programs. All activities are monitored centrally. In this schema, the politicians have fewer powers compared to bureaucrats. This gives an insight into the non-political implementation of governance. This governance style helped the BJD to transform Congress fully into the state. The Conference enjoyed the support of marginalized communities in the past. In recent years, however, the BJD has firmly based its control on the most deprived parts of society.

The survey indicates that the poor and lower classes supported the BJD. On the other hand, the BJP did well among middle-class voters and senior classes (Table 4, p. 14). However, this is not enough to destabilize Patnaik's image aimed at people.

The CSDS-Lokniti survey also found that a KALIA (Krushak Aid for Increasing Livelihoods and Income) of Patnaik's government is a crucial factor in the BJD's guidance on the BJP which gives financial assistance to farmers. This scheme had a clear impact on the political choices made by voters. For example, among farmers who availed of the KALIA scheme (39% said they benefited), the BJD directed 9 percentage points (Table 5). It means that welfarism and political outreach have helped the BJD to secure its position in rural areas.

The debate on empowering women also involved governance and welfare as political issues. It is important to note that figure Biju Patnaik is closely related to the 33% reservation among the grounds in panchayati raj grounds. The BJD also tried to mobilize women voters as a recognized item. The state government rewarded anganwadi workers immediately before the elections. In addition, the BJD initiated a national 33% reservation campaign for women in legislative bodies. While this campaign could not gain momentum at national level, the party decided to give a 33% reservation to female candidates. This comprehensive gender-sensitive politics helped the BJD to overcome others. He gave tickets to seven female candidates in Lok Sabha and five of them won comfortably (Table 6). Similarly, 12 out of 19 female candidates won the party at the election electionTable 7).


The success of the BJD led by Patnaik in the 2019 elections and the emergence of BJP as the main opposition in Odisha has led to a complex case. A significant feature of the 2019 elections in the state was the strategic placing of strategic political issues in an election competition. At the same time, the normal state-of-the-art issues, the inclusivity, empowerment of women – survived voters' voters. The survey shows that voter class differences and spatial locations decided their political choices. Welfarism is reflected in a political spirit, particularly by poor and marginalized rural sections of society. While the elite and the powerful celebrate the emerging discourse of highly desired nationalism. However, these responses which did not appear to be contrary to any decisive political binary between the BJP and the BJD did not appear. The voters prefer Modi as Prime Minister, but they did not vote for the BJP; They preferred Patnaik as prime minister but stayed worried about the potential role of BJD as a national force.


1 The party's official website describes Biju Patnaik and Naveen Patnaik as “a source of inspiration,” http://www.bjdodisha.org.in/content/our-inspiration/biju-patnaik, accessed on 29 June 2019.

2 For an excellent overview of the role of SST in Odisha, see Kanungo (2003).

3 The Sambit Patra election campaign is very instructive. In one of the election rallies, he wore a naked garment and made a small idol of Lord Jagannath in his hand. See: https://www.hindustantimes.com/lok-sabha-elections/lok-sabha-elections-2 … pPCJ.html, observed on 29 June 2019. Hindutva's production was of importance. Jagannath culture SST campaign ingredient in the state. Explaining this complex formulation of Hindutva in Odisha, Pralay Kanungo argues: “RSS feels that the Jagannath-Oriya-Hindu-Indian interconnection is an ideal framework for the spread of Hindutva. … It shows the culture of Orissa as Jagannath Sanskruti because this inclusive culture violates all of the other tactics and traditions and violates them. … The RSS therefore understands the disadvantage of projecting Hindutva as an alternative; it requires, wisely, its ideological relationship with the Jagannath culture ”(Kanungo 2003).


Kanungo, Pralay (2003): “Hindutva's entry into the Hindu Province ': Early Years RSS in Orissa,” Economic & Political Weekly, Volume 38, No. 31, August, p. 3293–303.


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