Naveen’s Charisma Again Works In Odisha
Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has once again proven the political pundits wrong over his exit from Odisha. In an astonishing result, the BJD under the dynamic leadership of Naveen Patnaik won a record fourth term in the state assembly elections and almost a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections. The party registered a landslide win on 117 of the 147 seats in the state elections and 20 of the 21 in the national one.
Showing his happiness over his party’s landslide victory Patnaik said, “It is not BJD’s victory alone, it is the victory of four crore Odia people who love Odisha and work for Odia pride. I would like to thank the people of Odisha for giving such a massive mandate to the BJD. I humbly accept this love and affection and we will make an all-out effort to continue our good work for the state.”
BJD was suffering from anti-incumbency-undercurrent that was so strong that many observers thought only a miracle could help BJD continue in power. But, Naveen Patnaik who is purportedly more popular than even his own party was able to hold his fort against all odds. The BJP which was confident of its victory in the state was only able to secure 10 Assembly seats. Jual Oram, BJP’s heavyweight, was the only one who was able to secure his seat from Sundargarh with a margin of 18,000 votes in Lok Sabha election. On the other hand, the Congress which was the principal opposition in the state, has shown its worst performance with wining just 16 seats whereas the party had won 27 Assembly seats in the 2009 elections.
Naveen Patnaik implemented many policies that were widely viewed as people friendly and were seen to have improved the lot of the people at the grassroots level. BJD this time targeted the lower social strata. The 100-crore package for kendu leaf pluckers was precisely tailor-made for lower income groups and tribals, who have been traditionally Congress vote bank. Similarly, women self groups were wooed with lower interest rate loans. Youth were targeted through Mission Yuva Shakti and youth conventions, while ‘Sankha Bajao, Swabhiman Bachao’ campaign was meant to mobilise ground support. This all gathered positive sentiment for the Patnaik regime to run the government for the fourth consecutive term.
ODISHA BJP NEEDS A NABAKALEBARA
The Verdict 2014 has brought a historic double win for Naveen Patnaik, as his Biju Janata Dal swept both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The regional outfit won a staggering 117 and 20 of the 147 assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats respectively. On the contrary, the verdict came as a shock for the BJP as the party had to bite the dust with its tally reduced to a mere ten in the Assembly and a single seat in Lok Sabha, bringing the party’s position back to two decades. The sole candidate it is sending to Parliament is former tribal affairs minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, Jual Oram, from Sundargarh. Significantly, Odisha seemed to be barely touched by the Narendra Modi wave, which has not just swept India, but has also helped the BJP register unlikely wins in eastern states like West Bengal and Assam. This besides the fact that Modi had seven public meetings in the state.
The performance of the Congress can be explained, but the humiliating defeat of the BJP on the face of an undercurrent of Naveen wave has surprised many. Patnaik was amply helped by poor opponents. Neither the Congress nor the BJP declared chief ministerial candidates to take him on, effectively making him the only claimant for the post. The coterie ridden BJP has a very poor organisational position in Odisha. There are many divisions in the party. Morale of the cadres and party workers is at ebb. Unlike the BJD the saffron party failed to project a ‘real leader’. Voters were confused of the fact of who actually headed the State unit of BJP, forget about accepting a leader. In such a situation Naveen’s BJD was more acceptable.
The party selected wrong candidates. It seemed that all losers were gifted party tickets, a sharp contrast with the BJD which benched 35 MLA’s and 8 MP’s. The two main criteria for candidates’ selection – winability and loyalty to the party were brushed aside. Most of the candidates were picked up on the quota basis. The different factions had drawn lines and fixed the quota for tickets that would be allotted to them. The lions share went to Dharmendra Pradhan, who virtually is single handedly responsible for the party being decimated in the state. His coterie of yes-men and hanger-on’s were doled out tickets, all of whom lost miserably.
State President K V Singhdeo, who has performed miserably during his entire stint could care less. Even up till two weeks before the elections were declared, he was busy in the grand marriage of his daughter. In fact, he took a six month sabbatical from all party affairs and was in all sense incommunicado during the vital month to the buildup of the upcoming elections. Dishing out the MP ticket to his wife Sangeeta from Balangir was the last straw. Party patriarch Biswabhusan Harichandan played the emotional card to secure a party ticket for his son, who failed in the hustings. Rejects like Manmohan Samal, Samir Dey and Surama Padhi etc were given tickets. At some places the party selected candidates those who were neither primary members, nor from a RSS background nor had a mass base. Some mere party hoppers, simply rejected by other parties, in quest of getting a ticket switched to BJP.
A sizable chunk of the BJP candidates were not confident to win elections from day one. It was not only its own development initiative which BJP failed to highlight during the election campaign, but also the party did not raise issues which are plaguing Odisha —scams, Maoist menace, poverty, distress selling of paddy, tribals being squeezed out of their ancestral lands—which could have taken shape of a strong anti-incumbency against Naveen Patnaik.
Arun Singh, BJP’s prabhari of Odisha was assigned the task of revitalizing the BJP campaign in a state which is virtually written off by the party. Despite all his efforts, he failed to get together the loose strings of the party. For the party, the road ahead is an uphill one. Can the BJP rise onec again in Odisha. To rise as a strong unit, the Odisha BJP has to undergo an Nabakalebara, there has to be a revamp right from the grassroots to the top leadership. Fresh blood has to be injected into the party and the long time losers given the sack.
By Anil Dhir from Bhubaneswar
The opposition, whether it be the Congress and the BJP, failed to capture the anti-incumbency wave in the state. BJD at one time was surrounded by many controversial issues that would have paved the way to the downfall of the party. These issues include increasing number of scams, inefficiency in handling Cyclone Phailin, degrading medical condition of the people of the state, increase in unemployment and crime rates in the state. But the role of the Opposition was not strong enough to make them issues in this election.
However, BJP was confident that Narendra Modi wave will do wonders in Odisha elections. Like its national campaign, the BJP made corruption a big issue in state elections and put the BJD government on the mat for the state’s mining scam. The BJP also connected with people through foot soldiers, through local worker conventions and election committees. BJP released a separate manifesto for Odisha and promised youth to give 40 lakh jobs. The party had also assured fast track courts for dealing with women safety cases and also proposing Kanyaranta scheme for the girl child. But all went in vain.
The Congress, on the other hand, looked the most jaded amongst all parties in the state. Despite being the opposition party, it failed to exploit the sentiment against the government on the mining scam due to lack of support from its central leadership. The UPA itself has been struggling in Coalgate and prevented the state unit from going all out against Naveen Patnaik on the same issue in another context.
Chief Minister Patnaik thanked the people of the state for reposing faith in him and his party. “The election results have clearly proved that the people in the state have faith in the BJD which has been providing a clean and good administration for the last fourteen years. This is not BJD’s victory but the victory of all the people in Odisha,” Patnaik told reporters.
Giving a hint to support the next government he congratulated Narendra Modi on his victory in the Lok Sabha elections and promised that his party would co-operate with the new government at the Centre. “Our approach to the new government at the Centre will be positive and we hope there will be a similar positive attitude from them towards Odisha,” he said.
By Rohan Pal from Bhubaneswar