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Naveen Seals Saffron Space

  

When results of three-tier panchayat elections, especially the Zilla Parishad polls, were declared a few months ago, many people thought that BJP has the potential to play the role of an “Agent of Change” in the political system of Odisha.  
 
Biju Janata Dal headed by Naveen Patnaik looked politically tired, may be due to its overstay in power. The ruling party appeared not taking the challenges seriously and therefore handed over about 180 Zilla Parishad seats to BJP, the party, which was attempting to shun its third position tag in the state politics.
 
 And the saffron brigade in fact emerged as the state’s main opposition dislodging Congress, which could get only 60 Zilla Parishad seats. Though BJD continued retain its number one position, the polls gave a message that the saffron brigade would soon be able to outsmart BJD. This, in fact, made Mr.Patnaik desperate to revamp the party.  
 
Ever since Naveen took the rein in 2000, no other political party has been able to grow in Odisha. The main opposition Congress continued to lose seats on every election and BJP was reduced to a non-entity. However, the situation has undergone a sudden change in the rural polls giving an edge to BJP.
 
Naveen Patnaik’s absence in rural poll campaign was a political blunder as MLAs are not vote catchers. This provided the much needed space for BJP to score nearly three tons (297).
 
Now with this edge, the saffron brigade has made a dent in the image of BJD. People both in urban and rural areas have started believing that the party, which is ruling the state for the last 17 years, is no more a holy cow.
 
Naveen, a no-nonsense politician, however, took the panchayat poll results as a wake-up call, and now the party is hyperactive and trying to regain its command over the political arena of the state.

He has not rested these four months and has appointed over 600 observers to oversee the party organization. BJD has so far appointed observers in all the 314 Blocks and 113 Urban Local Bodies.
 
Not a single by-election in a Ward or Gram Panchayat is now overlooked. Take for example, the by-election in two wards in Deogarh Municipality on 4 August.

BJD Supremo was seen monitoring the voting pattern during the entire day through party observers and senior Vice Presidents. Finally the result went in BJD’s favour as it swept the poll in these two wards.
 
“The move not to allow an inch of political space to BJP is the new mantra of Naveen Patnaik”, said a senior Vice President. 

The ZP elections in Komna block of Nuapada is an instance where BJP candidate was pushed to the third position again even though it is considered the fort of Basant Panda, BJP State President.

BJD highlighted the Nuapada results and gave a clear message that BJD continued to have command over the political matters in the state, be it in Nuapada or elsewhere.

After the rural polls, Naveen appears to have tightened all loose ends in the party. He has activated all the frontal organizations like youth, students, women, dalit, tribal, trade union and other wings. Now eyes are set on Pani Panchayts, Self Help Groups and Ex-Military personnel bodies to form BJD cells.
 
 All these efforts are made to strengthen BJD and ensure that BJP fails to get space.

Besides frequently hitting the streets over some issue or the other,  BJD men and women are put on high alert  and are told to remain prepared for any eventuality like BJP’s attack through its National President  Amit Shah and saffron party’s Spokespersons who are out to denigrate Naveen’s image, the only asset of the ruling party in Odisha.
 
BJD has also appointed and empowered its Principal Spokesperson by making Pratap Kesari Deb a Rajya Sabha MP.  BJD voice is loud and clear; the party does not miss to hit back and counter BJP’s allegations.

There is a Press Meet in the BJD state headquarters almost every day and the party’s campaign machinery is on an overdrive to take on BJP’s attack.
 
Naveen too has changed his style of functioning and is facing media persons as and when required. BJD leaders, who were keeping a distance from the media, are now cozying up to the press.  
 
Realizing that BJP’s growth in the state was mostly for its propaganda activities, Naveen has made himself, the party and the government active in the social media; Face-book and Twitter Accounts are being opened by the Team BJD. 
 
This is not that Naveen has only activated the party.  Government of late plays a pro-active role and decisions are taken at frequent intervals.
 
The State Cabinet is holding frequent meetings. BJP has expressed its irritation over frequent Cabinet meetings.
 
Naveen’s call to end percentage commission (PC), at least in rural housing schemes, has increased the Chief Minister’s stake as the victims are mostly poor men and women in rural pockets.

If people get benefits as per the provision without paying a PC, it would certainly add to the Government’s image. This would certainly help to add to BJD’s popularity, boosting Naveen’s clean image.
 
And for any new announcement made by the State Government, large advertisements are released in the Media to grab public attention. Successful organization of Asian Athletic Championship (AAC) in 90 days has not only boosted the Government’s image but also endeared it to the youth. The AAC success story has enhanced the image of Naveen Patnaik.
 
It is a fact that BJD is trying hard to outsmart BJP through various ways in general, boosting the image of Naveen in particular.

But as  BJP has received a large space in the rural heartland, people in these areas have started believing them. And the message is slowly percolating among the masses.
 
Against this backdrop, BJD Poll Managers must realize that Naveen’s  charisma alone is not sufficient for BJD to return to power for the fifth time in a row in 2019.

They have to walk an extra mile to convince people that the regional power house alone will be able to protect their interests, not the political major, BJP.
 


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