At the end of the fifth and last phase of panchayat polls on Tuesday, it became clear that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal has lost its supremacy in rural Odisha, suffering a severe jolt in the western region.In its fourth consecutive term in power, the BJD has for the first time faced serious challenge not from the Congress but from its one-time ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party. The shock to the ruling party has come while it was trying to strengthen its position by celebrating the birth centenary of late Biju Patnaik after whom the party has been named.Before enforcement of the model code of conduct, Mr. Patnaik had visited almost all the districts, announcing new schemes and laying foundation stones for new projects in an attempt to beat anti-incumbency. A number people from rival parties as well as popular actors were inducted into the BJD to exhibit the party’s growing popularity in the run-up to the polls.The ruling BJD had also tried to whip up popular sentiments by raising the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh by organising protests and Jal Satyagraha.Although the results of the rural polls have not been formally announced, going by reports reaching the Capital city, it appears that the BJD had lost ground in over 100 Zilla Parishad constituencies. Top BJD leaders too have failed to prevent the BJP from winning in their strongholds. It seems that Mr. Patnaik’s pre-poll announcements and public mobilisation on the Mahanadi issue had had little impact on voters. The BJP, on the other hand, achieved spectacular success by intensifying its campaign when the BJD was bugged by anti-incumbency, and the Congress, the main opposition in State Assembly, remained a divided house.The saffron party is likely to cross the 300 mark by increasing its strength from a measly 36 of the total 851 Zilla Parishad seats in the last panchayat polls in 2012.The BJP has not only achieved substantial electoral gains in the western region of the State by defeating both the BJD and the Congress nominees, it has also been able to make inroads into the coastal region where the BJD was strong all these years.The BJD, which won 651 seats in 2012, is set to get restricted to 400-odd seats with the Congress suffering a major setback. The party, which has been pushed to the third position by the BJP, is set to win 50-odd seats this time as against 128 five years ago. Though the trend was not clear in all 30 districts, the BJD is likely to form Zilla Parishad in at least 14 districts, the BJP in eight and the Congress in two districts as happened in 2012. The BJP had not been able to form council in any district last time.The interior districts where the BJP performed unexpectedly well this time include Kalahandi, Balangir, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Malkangiri and Mayurbhanj. The party had strong presence in these areas during its nine-year-long partnership in the State government from 2000 to 2009.Voter turnout The final results will be declared by the State Election Commission on February 25. The initial outcome, however, have left the BJD shocked, the BJP euphoric and the Congress depressed. All these parties have already started contemplating about adopting new strategy to regain lost ground and consolidate their position in future polls. The highest voter turnout of 77% was recorded in the last phase of the polls on Tuesday, surpassing the turnout in the previous four phases. Giving details of the fifth phase polling held in 150 Zilla Parishad seats spread over 26 of the total 30 districts, the Election Commission said Subarnapur district recorded the highest turnout at 88% and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s home district Ganjam saw the lowest at 67%.The results of the elections for the posts of sarpanches and ward members, and results for panchayat samity members and Zilla Parishad members will be announced on February 23 and 25 respectively by the Block Development Officers-cum-Election Officers.