While two of its leaders deserted the party, a former IAS officer has joined its ranks.

 

New Delhi: Political dynamics are at its peak in Odisha these days. Every major party is facing dissidence ahead of the parliamentary and Assembly elections, which are held simultaneously in the state, scheduled for early next year.

When for the Congress, which has been relegated to a poor third position in the last four years, desertions are almost a daily affair, even the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and an emerging BJP are unable to keep their flock together.

After BJD lost two of its tallest leaders after party supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik—Baijayant “Jay” Panda and Damodar Rout aka “Dama”—earlier this year, BJP is also facing the same problem with two of its strong leaders—Bijoy Mohapatra and party’s Rourkela MLA Dilip Ray— quitting the party recently, bringing a thaw in the saffron surge in the state.

Though it is almost certain that Ray will join BJD in the coming days, it will be interesting to see where Mohapatra is headed. Mohapatra was instrumental in bringing Patnaik into Odisha politics, but fell out with him soon after the latter assumed power.

It is to be seen whether the tall and wily leader, who has never spared a chance to attack the Chief Minister in the last two decades, will bow before the same person again or has something else up his sleeve.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has, however, had a good addition into its fold when former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi, who took voluntary retirement to take a plunge into politics, joined the party last week. The party has some more good news in store as Panda is said to be joining its ranks very soon after a long wait, and if rumours are to be believed, 16 December has been set as the date for his joining at a function in New Delhi on the lines of Sarangi.

One more development that has come as a good sign for the BJP is that there is now better clarity on the issue of party leadership in the state after Union Minister Jual Oram came out with a statement that his Cabinet colleague and bête noire Dharmendra Pradhan will be the chief ministerial face of the party in the upcoming elections.

The announcement is important not only because Oram himself was considered as a CM candidate, but also because of the rumours that went around after Sarangi joined the party. So the leadership issue looks almost settled in the state unit of the BJP and it is now clear that Pradhan is going to lead the party in the state during the coming polls.

Moreover, Rout has floated his own party in the meanwhile, which will ultimately help the BJP. So the ruling party at the Centre, which is looking to upset the BJD’s applecart and end Patnaik’s 20-year-long reign this time, is going through a roller-coaster ride in the state for the time being. If Panda joins its ranks as scheduled, it will certainly be a shot in the arm for the party in the state.

Politics is going to get hotter in the coming days in the state as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to address a mega public rally at Khurda on 24 December and Congress president Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to visit the state around that time, while the BJD will be celebrating its foundation day almost at the same time. This would certainly set the tone for the upcoming general and state elections.

Though Khurda, the venue of the Prime Minister’s rally, comes under Bhubaneswar parliamentary constituency, it is an important Assembly segment adjacent to Puri Lok Sabha constituency where PM Modi is going to fight from, if things go as per plan. Modi choosing a place like Khurda, which is a traditional BJD stronghold but also has a good BJP presence, is also taken as a hint by political circles that he is going to fight from Puri alongside Varanasi.

Politics in Odisha has never followed the national trend in the past. Hence, political observers are anxious to see whether the coming elections will be an aberration or it will be business as usual.