With a few days to go for the Bijepur bypoll, the BJD leaders have already started camping in the constituency.
BHUBANESWAR: The BJP and the ruling BJD in Odisha, which traded bitter charges before the 2019 polls and changed their hearts after the elections to share an “uncommon” bonhomie, are now in a dilemma as to how to take on each other in the forthcoming Bijepur Assembly bypoll.
Though leaders of the two parties have started to project themselves as rivals for the bypoll scheduled to be held on October 21, voters appear to be confused whether the fresh spell of differences is genuine or cultivated exercises to maintain their individual identities.
The BJD has nominated old hand Rita Sahu as its nominee while the BJP once again relied on Sanat Gadita who had unsuccessfully fought against the BJD president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik in the state Assembly polls held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls early this year. The Congress has fielded a completely new face – Dillip Panda.
In all likelihood, political analysts say, it will be a battle between the BJD and BJP since the Congress has almost lost its ground in the constituency. In the last two Assembly elections — 2018 bypolls – 2019 Assembly polls — the grand old party got 10,274 and 14,344 votes, respectively.
The voters, especially those who are supporters of the BJD and BJP, are confused after their leaders buried their differences soon after the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, and praised each other in complete public view. And, they justified that their “growing rapport exemplified constructive cooperation, a key ingredient for healthy democracy”.
The BJD, some of whose leaders were rounded up by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the multi-crore chit fund scam before the 2019 polls, extended support to the BJP-led NDA at the Centre on passing of crucial legislations, including Triple Talaq Bill and Right to Information Act (Amendment Bill) in Parliament after the 2019 elections. Many saw it as the regional party buying peace with its arch-rival as the CBI sword still hangs over the heads of a few other leaders. Both the parties pushed their voters to utter confusion when they literally fought to take to their respective sides a former bureaucrat – Ashwini Baishnab – and nominate him as Rajya Sabha candidate.
In the battle for Ashwini Baishnab, the BJP won. Despite the party having no number to send a member to the Rajya Sabha from the state, it elected him as the BJD mysteriously supported him saying that the party had received a request from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah.
Allegedly not known much for making significant contributions to any fields concerning public goods and often linked to controversial mining-related businesses, Aswhini Baishnab, a non-Odia person, was sent to the Rajya Sabha ignoring claims by several political heavyweights.
Just on the eve of notification of Bijepur bypoll, the BJP camp led by party state president Basant Panda has started flexing muscles by accusing the ruling BJD of hoodwinking the people by giving false promises.
The saffron party has alleged that the houses built under ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ in the state are being rebranded by the ruling BJD as ‘Biju Pucca Ghar’ to impress the voters. The BJP leaders and workers gheraoed 314 block offices and NAC/municipality offices across the state to protest against rebranding of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
Apart from this issue, the BJP has also levelled allegation that the BJD government has not fulfilled its promises, including completion of Rs 1246-crore Gangadhar Meher irrigation project, made on the eve of 2018 Bijepur assembly bypoll.
The BJD, on the other hand, has preferred to focus on development planks to woo voters.
The regional party’s change of strategy is viewed as a well-articulated move not to incur the wrath of the BJP leaders and attract punitive political retaliations
With a few days to go for the Bijepur bypoll, the BJD leaders have already started camping in the constituency. BJP working president J.P.Nadda, Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, state BJP president Basant Panda, Union minister Smriti Irani are among the galaxy of leaders who will canvass for the party candidate.
While Naveen will lead the BJD from the front, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi will hit the campaign trail for revival of the party.