When a BJD veteran recently met the Chief Minister at the CMO for a discussion on rural poll loss, for the first time he found there were no officials present there and the Boss was in a receptive mood.
The senior leader found that the Chief Minister was listening intently to all his suggestions and promised to make mid way corrections.
Similar was the experience of a senior Minister, who also shared such an experience and said now Naveen is in a different wave length.
And later in the evening, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, a writer, was spotted at the Oxford Book Store at Pal Heights with Geeta Mehta, his sister who is also a noted author.
Lo behold! All security officers were kept at bay. A totally formal political personality unlike his informal legendary father Biju Patnaik, who also loves books, went inside the book store to scan through some classics.
After buying books and paying cash from his pocket, a smiling Chief Minister came out of the store and found a huge crowd collected to greet him.
Lalu Pradhan, an engineering student, who talked to Naveen, was overwhelmed by the simplicity of the Chief Minister and admitted that young people has craze for the Biju son.
Chief Minister allowed young boys and girls to take selfie with him and pleasantly talked to them and quietly left the mall.
Naveen’s evening outing with his sibling was totally personal. However, his private visit to the bookstore has given a clear message to his opponents that he is still the most popular politician in the state. And this is in spite of the fact that BJD had lost about 180 Zilla Parishad seats.
However, political analysts feel that the bookstore visit is a quiet move of Patnaik to gauge his popularity among the youth.
Why did BJD candidates face defeat in the rural polls? The answer was infighting in the ruling party and inadequate strategy to win elections.
Naveen’s visit to the bookstore may be seen as a private visit, but for political observers, it is part of the Chief Minister’s image building strategy.
The BJD President has already started making strategies for the ensuing urban polls in 2018 and general elections in 2019.
For the first time, Naveen has realized that his party desperately needs a master strategist.
Though he himself is an ace strategist, he alone will not be able to handle the Narendra Modi surge.
He needs people to implement strategies to counter the growth of BJP, which could take its Zilla Parishad tally to 297 in 2017 from just 36 in 2012.
The ruling BJD has everything to counter Narendra Modi’s BJP.
The party has dedicated workers at grassroots level, enough money to fund elections, good leaders to lead constituencies and an able bureaucracy to bring the government’s programme to each door step.
When the top level of BJD is efficient and the base is solid, the condition of the party’s middle level has been disappointing. Ministers, MPs and MLAS, who constitute the middle level of the party, have failed. A large number of Assembly segments have given birth to rival groups though all factions remain loyal to the supremo. The cold war between the middle level leaders and the rivals, have started eating into BJD’s strength.
BJP, now a wealthy platform, could exploit the situation and took advantage of it.
As the condition of Congress has further worsened during tenure of Prasad Harichandan, it was natural that BJP became the second preference of the people who were opposed to the sitting BJD MLAs, Ministers or MPs.
The infighting in the ruling party has been so intense that visiting Janata Dal (U) leader Sharad Yadav also took note of it.
Naveen has also to ensure that the service delivery system is foolproof. Take for example; Rural Housing Scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the BJD Government.
A unit cost is Rs1.30 lakh. If a poor man gets a house in the village, he should be happy.
Regular reviews taken by Chief Minister show that Department of Panchayati Raj has successfully taken up the projects.
But the crucial part of the issue was never discussed through power point presentation that out of Rs1.30 lakh, the beneficiary is forced to pay Rs 30, 000 as bribe to local BJD leaders and low level officials before getting the work order.
BJD leaders in villages are arrogant. This is the anger of people in villages, which has been reflected in the rural polls.
Similar is the case of Police Stations, where corruption is rampant. People have even burnt several Police Stations. Why? The reason is simple: they are not getting justice.
New Ration Card issue is another reason of people’s ire. Women in the villages are great supporters of Biju Patnaik’s younger son. But they were arrested and harassed by the state administration, which angered people.
Service delivery mechanism needs to be streamlined. Power point presentations by mandarins to impress the Chief Minister will not just work as BJP is smelling blood with firebrand Dharmendra Pradhan and his saffron team in action.
As the general election is about two years to go BJD must rise to the occasion and ensure that people get service and justice.
According to Naveen, people have given a ‘wake up call’ to the ruling party through panchayat polls.
They have not totally rejected BJD and it is still the single largest party in the state. But things may get worse if remedial measures are not taken.
Now, under changed circumstances, Naveen needs proper strategy both for his own party as well for the government.
The strategy for party should ensure that infighting must end and arrogance of party leaders contained.
And with able administrators in place, they will have to move to villages and ensure that service delivery mechanism run properly.
“And If Naveen could re-organize his own party which has been disintegrating due to internal squabbles nobody can stop BJD,” said a Rajya Sabha MP adding that addressing party’s own problem is more important for the BJD President than anything else at this juncture.