The BJP has already got a pole position in Odisha politics as the second largest party after the BJD. The Congress has been pushed to the third spot.
Bhubaneswar: The BJP, which despite putting in all efforts could not win Odisha Assembly elections held simultaneously with the 2019 general elections, now seems to have chosen a risky truce with its arch rival BJD.
The party has mysteriously silenced all its guns that blazed full-throated before the polls and extended an olive branch to the BJD president and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, perhaps with a calculation that since the 73-year-old chief minister has not chosen any successor, it would not be a tough task to unseat the BJD in the 2024 elections.
Political analysts, however, are not much enthused at the BJP’s gambling despite the party having strong ammunitions in its hands to trouble the BJD.
The multi-crore chit fund scam and mining irregularities which happened under the nose of the Naveen Patnaik government during its third and fourth stints spanning from 2004 to 2014, as the analysts point out, have had enough firepower to bring the BJD into BJP’s subjugation.
Surprisingly, the BJP has never made much use of these ammunitions, allowing the BJD chief to build around himself an invincible citadel.
In 2008 when Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader and seer Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was killed by Maoists allegedly at the behest of a minority community, there was a strong demand from with the Odisha state BJP unit to withdraw support to the Naveen Patnaik government.
The BJP was then a coalition partner of the BJD. Withdrawal of support would have rendered the BJD a minority government in the state and would have led to its fall. In the event the Congress had then supported the BJD, the BJP would still have gained substantially as the popular mood was against the BJD after the killing of Laxmanananda Saraswati. Instead of withdrawal of support, the saffron leaders then decided to continue with the coalition government, ignoring the anger of the party workers and cadres. A few months later in 2009, Mr Patnaik stunned the BJP leaders dubbing the latter as “communal”. The shock was huge for the saffron leaders who experienced heavy drubbing in the 2009 Assembly polls and general elections. The party drew nil in the Lok Sabha polls and got just six seats in the Assembly elections.
Between 2009 and 2014, the party virtually kept silent on crucial issues. This resulted in the BJD gathering further strength. Its strength in the Lok Sabha rose from 15 to 20 seats and in the Assembly – from 103 to 117 seats.
The years between 2014 and 2019 marked diluted approaches by the BJP central and state leaders. Central leaders visiting Odisha never appeared sincere in their attack on the criticism or corruption issues. Their late recharge that came following outburst of anger by party’s grassroots leaders brought about respectable scores for the party in the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
The party won 8 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 23 of the 147 Assembly constituencies.
The BJP has already got a pole position in Odisha politics as the second largest party after BJD. The Congress has been pushed to the third spot.
Going by Mr Patnaik’s style of functioning, analysts maintain that the bachelor CM who has never allowed his challengers a striking distance by sudden moves, might put a spanner on the BJP’s dream of coming to power in 2024 by nominating an all-acceptable face.
In the event Mr Patnaik, like former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalathaa, does not nominate anyone to succeed him, the BJD has already seen many young leaders grooming themselves in the organisation to step into his shoes. Ambitious leaders like Pranab Prakash Das, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Pratap Kumar Jena and Sanjaya Das Burma who have proved their worth as good organisers and given party many victories reportedly have the required strength to upset the BJP’s applecart.
The tactical Naveen, despite being attacked vociferously by the BJP during the poll campaign, has supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s One Nation and One Poll proposal.
He also extended support to NDA nominee as Lok Sabha Speaker nominee Om Birla, stealing thunder from the BJP’s posturing as its main enemy.
Waiting to avenge its 2008 humiliation for over a decade now, the BJP may have to wait for one more decade if it fails to strike the iron when it is hot, point out the political commentators.