Rise and Fall of Naveen Babu
Odisha is again in news, now for the verdict of the Panchayat and Zila Parishad elections. Although, the BJD has been ruling the state for the last 17.5 years and the Congress being the principal Opposition party, surprisingly, this time the BJP has registered a remarkable performance. In the Zila Parishad elections, the BJP has risen from 36 seats in 2012 to 297 seats this time, whereas the BJD was reduced to 473 from 651 in 2012. The Congress has become totally irrelevant politically by just winning 60 seats in the total of 849 seats in the state. The result of the civic polls has compelled the political pundits in Odisha to say that the BJP is now acquiring the political space of the drowned Congress and unpopular ruling BJD. Of course, like in the national politics, the Modi charisma is gaining ground at the grassroots level in the rural Odisha, specifically Western Odisha. There has been a gigantic change in the political atmosphere now in favour of the BJP in the name of Narendra Modi in Odisha, which was absent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Now, why the BJP has won in the civic elections is widely discussed in the local media and also it has compelled the national media to focus on Odisha politics. Since its inception, the BJD has been running the show single-handedly under the towering personality of Naveen Babu. It is another matter that Naveen Babu still cannot speak Odiya even after winning four consecutive assembly elections. Such was his charisma that in the 2014 elections, the BJD had won 20 Lok Sabha seats out of 21, despite large crowds in Narendra Modi’s rallies. After the formation of the Union government under Modi, several Union ministers gave certificates to the state government for development initiatives of Naveen Patnaik. Also the Centre praised the state for excelling in the field of agriculture. Till recent local body elections, the BJP leaders never criticised the policies of the state government or never attacked Naveen Babu directly. The lone Union Minister who always came down heavily upon Naveen government was Jual Oram, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, who has demanded many a time a CBI inquiry against the state government to expose it on the issue of mines scam and chit fund scam.
Like Jyoti Basu, Naveen Babu also won elections after elections and enjoyed maximum power in Odisha politics after Independence. He successfully finished all his political opponents from inside the BJD and outside the party. His government initiated free schemes for all age groups, which culminated in his wide popularity in rural and urban areas. But it is noteworthy that till now no one could understand his strategy; no one could claim to be nearer to him in the party. Being a chief minister for the fourth term, under his leadership, the state is facing a huge crisis of policy paralysis, no development agenda. The most important factor is not a single industry could be set up in Odisha, besides non-materialisation of the largest FDI by POSCO. The agri sector is facing a real challenge because of the government’s free schemes. There has been a gargantuan exodus of skilled and non-skilled labours from the state. There has been huge scams in the BPL list, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Indira Awas and what not. On the other side, the Opposition, Congress is in a very bad shape with a huge crisis of leadership in the state. The state BJP having a few credible leaders with little organisational infrastructure at the grassroots level could do little to dethrone Naveen Babu. But yes, one can say the process of dethroning Naveen Babu has been started now by the BJP, as the dying Congress is helpless, afflicted with internal squabbling. There are innumerable issues and scams before the BJP to expose Naveen Patnaik government, but one needs political will at least for the development of Odisha. The state has totally gone out of track for development in the last six decades. If one goes by the grapevine that Naveen Babu is ill and is really unable to move many places, as was witnessed in the recently concluded civic polls, then the countdown of the Naveen Patnaik government’s has started, which will end in 2019 assembly elections.