BJP Lacks Local Connect

What is the secret of Naveen Patnaik winning elections in a row and still going strong even after 17 years in power? People say that the younger son of Biju Patnaik wins elections because there is no alternative to him in Odisha. But what remains hidden from the public view is that Naveen knows the art of catching peoples’ imagination, those who have been victims of central negligence.

The people in Odisha have somehow come to realize that their aspirations could be met only by a regional party. That could be the reason of Biju Janata Dal (BJD)’s spectacular success in 2014 general elections despite a nationwide Modi wave.
However, the policy makers of BJP appear to have failed to read the mind of people. Though the saffron brigade has been gaining its ground across the state of Odisha including the coastal region, considered to be a BJD stronghold, the national party appears to have failed to gauge the mood of the people.
 BJP has to prove that the party is serious about the development of the state. Just by making high-sounding speeches and announcing that there will be no compromise on Odisha’s interest, BJP leaders cannot hope to win the hearts of people, who have suffered decades of central neglect.
Here is a golden opportunity for BJP to make history in Odisha. Through the three-tier panchayat elections, people have given enough indication that they are willing to give BJP a chance.
Unfortunately, the strategy makers of BJP appear to be missing the public mood in Odisha. The saffron party has been exposed at least in two instances where people have reasons to believe that BJP leaders bat for neighbouring BJP ruled Chhattisgarh in the River Mahanadi issue and for Union Government in the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP) hike for paddy. BJP policy makers have failed to gauge the aspirations of the people of the state and safeguard their interests.
It is another matter that the ruling BJD was responsible for the plights of people by ignoring Mahanadi issue during the initial period. The state government, mostly guided by callous bureaucrats, could not realize that construction of projects on the upstream of Mahanadi would adversely affect water flow in the Mahanadi passing through Odisha. Had the BJD government acted promptly, the Mahanadi water dispute could have been resolved during initial days. However, the state government’s callous approach encouraged Chhattisgarh administration to go ahead.
When there was a state-wide agitation against Chhattisgarh’s unilateral decision to construct projects on upstream of the Mahanadi, BJP leaders’ role appeared pro-Raman Singh. Even rival political parties accused the Odisha BJP leaders of acting as the Resident Representatives of the Chhattisgarh government. BJP leaders including Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan announced that there would be no decline in the flow of water in the Hirakud reservoir.
 During this summer people have realized that Chhattisgarh’s action has adversely affected life in western Odisha. Meanwhile, the state government has moved the Supreme Court challenging Chhattisgarh’s action. The state has also moved the central government and demanded formation of a tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi water dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Even as mandatory one year has passed since Odisha’s application for constitution of a tribunal, BJP led NDA government has not allowed formation of a panel to resolve the issue.
As a rival political party, BJD has highlighted the matter and attempts are on to give a picture to the people that BJP is anti-Odisha and does not allow formation of tribunal. The visiting Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also recently said that the two states should resolve the matter through dialogue even as Raman Singh has rejected Odisha’s proposal to stop construction of barrages.
The Central Government’s delay in formation of a tribunal has already created an impression in people’s mind that national party is out to protect the interest of Chhattisgarh at the cost of Odisha.  The Mahanadi issue has put the BJP in a fix as it failed to meet the regional aspiration of the people of Odisha.
Similarly, on the issue of hike of MSP on paddy, BJP is being projected as anti-farmer by rival BJD which has succeeded to certain extent. It is BJP which in its manifesto has promised that farmers will get one-and-half time of the production cost of agricultural produces. However, after coming to power, BJP clearly forgot its promises and raised only Rs 80 in the MSP of paddy. It has been raised from Rs 1470 per quintal to Rs 1550 a quintal against the state assembly’s demand of raising it to Rs 2930.
During a discussion on the paddy MSP, the leader of the BJP legislature party K V Singhdeo attempted to shift responsibility to the state’s BJD government. He said that BJD had promised to make 35 per cent of Odisha’s agricultural land irrigated, but failed even after 17 years in power.
However, Mr.Singhdeo could not deny that they had made promises to farmers for enhancing the MSP at one and half times of the production cost. These issues needed to be taken up by BJP strategy makers and they should invoke the regional aspiration of the people if they sincerely want to rule the state. Unless the saffron party wins people’s confidence, it may be difficult to defeat Naveen Patnaik who has been heading a regional outfit with the sole agenda of raising the aspiration of the people of Odisha.
Though BJP is a national party, it should connect locally in order to gain people’s confidence. It is high time for saffron party leaders to make a pro-Odisha image instead of trumpeting national ethos.
Unless BJP as a political party meets the regional aspiration of the people of this eastern state, they will not be able to achieve the 120 plus goal set by their National President Amit Shah.

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