Elections are colourful exercises of the democratic nature of Indian Politics. Adding some real political drama to that in Odisha, state is awaiting to witness a close contest between Congress, BJP and currently ruling party BJD. Since last two decades, state has experienced one party and a system without a strong opposition. Now the case is slightly different than the last elections.
In the last two years, 46 central ministers have visited the state, Prime Minister Modi thrice, party president Amit Shah twice and two senior central ministers; Dharmendra Pradhan and Jual Oram, the Union tribal affairs minister virtually camped in the state for last several months. Pradhan conducted 45 rallies across 24 districts of the state in last 10 days before the February elections. Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh and a host of his ministers visited western Odisha and lent their support. Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das who worked the crowds in districts like Mayurbhanj which fall on the border. “We are confident that the BJP will win 120 seats in 2019 Assembly polls as people of Odisha want to get rid of Biju Janata Dal (BJD). We will form the next government in the state. The poll outcome is a clear rejection of Naveen babu’s government and acceptance of Prime Minister Modi as an able administrator. People have given a significant number of seats from all over the state and you will see the change in next two years. We are ready with our plans and we shall execute them.” Pradhan told reporters. BJP President Amit Shah had earlier set a target of winning 120 seats in the next assembly polls in the state. What gives Mr. Pradhan the confidence is not only the success of BJP in western Odisha but the noticeable success rate richer in central and coastal Odisha, traditionally a rampart of the BJD.
Considering the conclusions, results and bold statements of BJP, Naveen said he doesn’t believe the claim of the BJP president despite the BJP’s unprecedented growth in the rural polls and meticulous organizational work. Asked whether his party has set any mission to win particular number of seats, Naveen said, “I don’t want to take any numbers but I am sure we will get a comfortable majority. I have stressed again and again that my will have no direct or indirect alliance with any other parties. We will defeat them (BJP) on our own. I personally don’t take even anyone by name during my speech“. BJD clears to the confusions that, they will review its performance very seriously and shall apply suitable corrective measures both in terms of government and on organizational issues. Party president Naveen Patnaik has suspended Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda from the primary membership of the BJD. Baijayant Panda was known as the critic of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Party taking bold steps that will lead BJD towards the crown or a disaster, time will decide. On a note, Naveen said, “We accept the verdict of people with all humility and very positively. Though they are generally happy with our performance, want us to do some course correction. They have given us a golden opportunity for serious introspection and want us to perform even better.“
Where does this leave the Congress, which lost power to Patnaik 17 years ago and still seems to lack fight? The Congress has barely offered any opposition to the government. In 2011, the Congress’s central leadership chose Niranjan Patnaik, a former state minister, to lead the party in Odisha. He made an impression largely because his brother Soumya Ranjan Patnaik’s media house, which owns Sambad and Kanak TV, helped project him as the fortunes of the party. Less than three years later, in a surprise move, Niranjan Patnaik was replaced by Prasad Harichandan. He too failed to bring together the warring factions and gain the confidence of senior leaders but found himself isolated. Inside conflict resulted the party performed dismally in the 2014 Assembly and general elections. Congress then urged current party president Rahul Gandhi to sack Harichandan. After the Zilla Parishad debacle, a change of guard is in the offing. Niranjan Patnaik is the leader, backing of most of the party MLAs and workers. Congress feel that even if Niranjan Patnaik is appointed the president, may not have enough time to make a difference. The Congress still enjoys a big advantage over the BJP. It has a uniform support base across Odisha. The BJP has a committed base in only a few regions. “Only checking the erosion in the support base across Odisha will give a fillip to the Congress and boost our performance in the next election,” said a senior party leader. Whether the Congress can hold on to this advantage until the election, however, remains to be seen.
The mug of election is brewing faster than the expectations. In a process of fighting, Corporates like IMFA group heckled and harassed for no reason. Starting from Chromite mines to electric traffics. Facts behind are more gruesome. There are several allegations parties put on each other. We hear, the recent win of BJD over BJP in Zilla Parishad bye election at Balasore was blatant case of money power, though nothing has a strong proof. Dharmendra Pradhan just won once from Palalhada lost next before being nominated from Bihar. Here must say, if there is an existence of money/power game, nothing to be astonished as this is the bright face of our Indian politics. Besides, money games cannot be proven but experienced. Pointing towards each other and the blame games has already started. Muku, alias Dharmendra Pradhan ascendancy to power and proximity to Prime Minister and Amit Shah with limited political base in Odisha doesn’t go well with Kanak Vardhan and even Juel Oram are proven stalwarts of BJP. In coming election, do not be surprised to see a tacit agreement between Congress and BJD fighting BJP. If its triple election, according to the scenario, BJP might stands to gain.
Odisha now needs a leader who has a vision to lead the state, a vision that is the result of his experiences. State has already put a demand of political changes and rise of oppositions against a strong ruling party. The vote swing of parties are going up. A little more 2-3% may startle everyone with end results. Now its a high time. A sincere hope that the E-factors in Odisha i.e. Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship needs to be focused by the upcoming party. Support sectors, Rural economy, Food processing and Infrastructure must not kept aside as the last decades. The year 2019 will be the political page turner for the state or just the same as it is, yet to be predicted by the end of 2018.