Naveen Patnaik is one of India’s longest-serving chief ministers — and one of its most popular.
Though his chances of winning a fourth consecutive term in Odisha’s state government are high, he faces a difficult challenge in state elections that are being held concurrently with national elections to determine India’s next government. Odisha holds the second of two phases — the first was on April 10 — to elect its 21 representatives to the national parliament, as well as all 147 members of its state-level Legislative Assembly.
Odisha, with 41.95 million residents, is basically as populous as Argentina. It’s a sprawling state on the central coast of eastern India, nudged to the southwest of West Bengal and Bangladesh. Formerly known as Orissa, the state is the home of most of India’s Oriya/Odia language speakers. It’s one of the most Hindu states in India (over 94% of the population), with a larger Christian population (2.4%) than Muslim population (2.1%).
Politics in Odisha are essentially a three-party affair, including the familiar national parties, the center-left Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) and the center-right, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी).
But echoing an increasing trend throughout India, the dominant state-level party for more than a decade now has been the Biju Janata Dal (BJD, ବିଜୁ ଜନତା ଦଳ), which holds an overwhelming advantage in the Legislative Assembly:
Patnaik, like so many Indian politicians, is the son of another prominent politician — Biju Patnaik, who served as chief minster in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. Continue reading India’s ‘Mr. Clean’ seeks fourth term in Odisha elections