BJD Missing Target

Governing Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is all set to launch a massive “Save Mahanadi” campaign from May 16. The agitation along the bank of the river will cover at least 45 Assembly constituencies spread over 15 districts and target the opposition BJP.

However, will BJD’s month-long campaign help it politically after opposition Congress has started consolidating its base across the state? Political observers feel that this second phase of BJD’s Mahanadi agitation may not yield desired results. This is because the political situation has completely changed after Congress veteran Niranjan Patnaik was named OPCC Chief.
Even a week is a long time in politics and a lot of things can change in such a short period. Things are changing fast. People have started clinging to Congress and the political landscape is changing.
The observation may be correct -- targeting BJP may not give the desired mileage to BJD. Launching a mass agitation programme much ahead of the general elections may not help BJD, because the regional party’s main political enemy is not BJP under the changed political scenario. Though the saffron party emerged as Number Two after the 2017 rural polls, BJP may not be the principal enemy for the ruling party this time. It is now Congress and not BJP -- feel political analysts.
The strategy makers of the regional party, as it appeared, might have forgotten the statement of BJD President and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Ahead of BJD’s foundation day on 26 December, 2017, Patnaik was quoted saying that one should not ignore Congress, particularly after the Assembly elections in Punjab and Gujarat.
Though Congress has suffered a lot in national politics and remained out of power in Odisha for 18 years, the party is fast recovering. Certain by-polls in different states as well as Odisha have seen the verdict going against BJP, though not completely in favour of Congress. Therefore, while making a plan for a mass agitation, BJD should not ignore Congress.
Though BJD Vice President Prasanna Acharya has said that the Mahanadi agitation has nothing to do with politics, but to create awareness among the people living on the banks of the river, the regional party leaders have been targeting BJP, which is in power both in Chhattisgarh and at the Centre. Therefore, the claim that Mahanadi campaign has nothing to do with politics sounds empty.
However, the regional party should now make it clear which of the two opposition parties -- Congress or BJP -- is its main political rival. If BJD policymakers think that BJP is their main rival, they are committing a blunder which may cost them dear in the 2019 general elections.
All said and done, Congress is certainly the main opposition to BJD though its vote share has come down to 18 per cent from 26 per cent in the last year’s rural polls. At the same time, BJP’s vote share has increased.
Rise in BJP’s vote share in the panchayat polls may not be a yardstick for BJD to choose its principal political enemy. It is, however, a fact that Congress has suffered a massive defeat in the rural polls, Bijepur by-poll and also in certain urban polls. At the same time, it should also be kept in mind that BJP too suffered in all elections after rural polls and BJD has re-established its position in the state politics.
Decision Makers in BJD  have also to keep it in mind that despite several odds, Congress vote share continued to remain 50-60 lakh between 2004 and 2014, while BJP’s vote share remained within 32 lakh in the same period.
The much-hyped Mahanadi Movement to be launched by BJD may cause damage to BJP, only to benefit Congress which has been blaming both the state and central governments.
While addressing a meeting in Sambalpur, OPCC Chief Niranjan Patnaik has already blamed both BJD and BJP for the Mahanadi water dispute. He blamed BJD because it could not take right decision at the right time which helped the Chhattisgarh government to go ahead with major projects upstream of Mahanadi.
BJD has started raising the issue only after Chhattisgarh completed major barrage projects like the one at Kalma. What was BJD doing all along? Why did it not oppose Chhattisgarh when it was dumping construction materials at the site? Niranjan’s questions remain unanswered as BJD has done nothing in initial days.
At the same time, Congress is also blaming BJP for helping Chhattisgarh government and it did not help to stop construction works. This is also the allegation of BJD and Naveen Patnaik. Even the BJP-led Central Government has been exposed in the Mahanadi issue when it delayed formation of tribunal to resolve the dispute.
It is a fact that both BJD and BJP are responsible for the Mahanadi mess. Congress will take advantage of the situation and the mega agitation to be launched by BJD may not affect the poll prospect of Congress.
While taking up programmes to defuse BJP’s growth, BJD should not ignore Congress which is on upbeat mode. And BJD needs to realize that the political situation has undergone a sea change in the last fortnight after change of Congress leadership.
For BJP, things are gradually getting difficult after Niranjan Patnaik took over the reins of OPCC. The saffron party, which was emerging fast in the state, has been the target of both BJD and Congress.
 It appears from the Mahanadi agitation that BJD has decided to further push BJP to its place from where it has emerged as the runners up in the state politics. Niranjan Patnaik too is determined to give a befitting reply to BJP.However, a clever Niranjan has all along considered BJD, and not BJP, as the Congress’s main enemy in Odisha.
Against this backdrop, will BJD Supremo make some efforts to know its Number One Enemy and firm up the party strategy accordingly, instead of hitting a mistaken target? asked a veteran Biju acolyte.

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