Present political situation may prove ‘lull before storm’ if people’s mood swings. BJP is waiting to make a kill.
Far from the hoi polloi of the political upheavals in almost all the states of the country since Narendra Modi took over the reins in Delhi, Odisha has comparatively been calm with four-time Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seeking another term in the name of his legendary father Bijubabu as well as under the alibi of “Centre’s step-motherly treatment to the state”.
As it seems today, ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is sitting pretty after the Bijepur victory. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had upped the ante and its rank and file were ecstatic after winning impressively in the elections to the local bodies especially in the western pockets of the state in the last couple of years. But the Bijepur Assembly byelection defeat brought a thaw in their zeal. A number of organisational changes are being effected to weed out the wrong people at the helm and steps are being taken to maintain the enthusiasm of the cadre.
Chief Minister Patnaik, who doubles as BJD supremo, has also effected cosmetic changes in the party so as to reward his loyalists and those who made the Bijepur win possible. The bypoll win has come as a major relief for Patnaik. Of late, he is trying to change his sphinx image by mingling with the common people. In a bid to create a direct connect with youngsters, he is seen taking selfies with young crowd during various events and functions in the recent past. Many may take it as a desperate bid on his part to stem BJP’s rise, but it seems to be paying off.
The saffron party, on the other hand, is trying its best to leave the Bijepur nightmare behind and regain its lost ground as well as make fresh forays. It’s leaving no stones unturned to embarrass the BJD government as and when an issue crops up. From Kunduli rape to Bomikhal flyover collapse, the party is trying to grab every opportunity to put the ruling dispensation on the mat. However, lack of a leader matching Patnaik’s stature is what is haunting the party the most. Organisational weakness is another factor affecting party prospects highly in the state.
Meanwhile, the state unit of Congress party is in a revamp mode. After a series of electoral reversals and attritions thereafter, the party has been relegated to the third position in the state. Never-ending internecine squabbles have pushed the grand old party to a point of no return.
Congress high command’s choice of Niranjan Patnaik, a person seen as bearer of former Chief Minister Janaki Ballabh Patnaik’s legacy, to lead the party into the simultaneous general and assembly elections in the state next year has only added to its woes. With BJP replacing the party as the main opposition in the state and left with almost no prominent leader with it any more, the future of Congress seems rather bleak in the state.
Moreover, it’s poaching season in Odisha politics. While all the three parties are facing the problem of desertions, Congress is obviously experiencing it the most. But, strangely, the two major players are also not free from it. Not a single week is passing when one or other leader worth his salt is not flocking to the rival camp along with his followers. When BJD is looking for a groundswell, BJP is eyeing to poach prominent leaders as well as the disgruntled factions of other parties, especially belonging to the ruling outfit.
During his recent visits to the state, BJP national president Amit Shah has claimed that his party would win as many as 120 out of the total of 147 seats in the stateAssembly. But the party men would certainly find it an uphill task to achieve the target which has come to known as “Mission-120”.
Asked if the target set by their chief is intangible, party veteran Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo explained: “While looking for a big win, it’s the job of the leadership to set a target for the workers. Sri Amit Shah has just done that. It’s now up to the partymen to achieve that target. We all are working hard to accomplish the mission.” Talking to mediapersons earlier, party’s national secretary Suresh Pujari had said, “If a strong party like CPM could be routed in Tripura despite having a popular Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, why can’t the same happen in Odisha? We are doing our work quietly on the ground. The results would be seen next year.” To this, Singh Deo added: “Nothing is impossible. The same factors like anti-incumbency are working here also.” This shows though the party is expecting a Tripura-type of miracle, its state leaders are putting all-out efforts to prove that their supremo’s Mission-120 call is not just another jumla.
Only time will tell whether Patnaik would get another term to create history as one of the longest serving Chief Ministers as it appears today or the present political situation in the state would prove to be the proverbial “lull before the storm” with the mood of the voters swaying in favour the ongoing “Modi wave” and the saffron party storming into the corridors of power in the state. Much will also depend on the outcome of the Karnataka elections.