Pulwama Impacts Politics

The February 14 Pulwama terror attack and the developments in its aftermath leading to the air strike inside Pakistan will leave its impact on Indian politics. Odisha politics will not be free from this impact. 

As there is a nationwide fury over the attack, Pulwama is no longer just a national security or foreign policy issue; it will also leave its imprint on our politics.

While the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) poll managers, who were confident that the regional party was unstoppable with its several popular programs for farmers, women and the youth and were confident of forming government for the fifth consecutive time, are now worried. Under the changed situation, many people at the helm of BJD privately admit that BJP is going to gain politically.

It is Pulwama that will certainly impact the upcoming elections, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi took only 12 days to retaliate, allowing Indian Air Force to go ahead with an air strike much beyond the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The Indian Air Force crossed Pakistan air space for the first time after the 1971 war. The credit goes to Mr.Modi.

With tension continuing across the border, political temperature in Odisha also rises. And the saffron brigade will take this as an opportunity and highlight Mr.Modi for his decision to “Strike Terror”. Its impact on people in Odisha is evident because two of the 40 CRPF Jawans, who laid down their lives in the terror attack in J&K, were from Odisha.

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan at the party’s recent Derabis meeting in Kendrapara district claimed that it was Narendra Modi alone who could take this kind of decision. He described Mr.Modi as “Chowkidar Sher Hai.”

Visiting senior BJP leaders take the opportunity to give an impression that Modi alone is capable of safeguarding the country’s interest. Against this backdrop, BJP will launch a massive campaign to give Modi another chance.

BJP, considered a third ranking political party in Odisha with only 10 MLAs and 1 MP, is now aspiring to form government in the state besides bagging most of the Lok Sabha seats.

Pulwama incident has created a situation where political benefits will go to BJP, which has turned out to be a major cause of concern for the leaders of both BJD and Congress.

Though Naveen Patnaik has left no stone unturned in paying due tribute to the Pulwama martyrs and joining the country in the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the regional party is unlikely to gain from the incident.

Rather senior BJD lawmaker Debasis Samantray has invited criticism for the regional party by allegedly manhandling a kin of the martyr Manoj Kumar Behera during his funeral at Niali. BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan has been raising the issue over the BJD lawmaker’s activities in all the meetings, making people believe that the regional party has no respect for the martyr’s family.

However, the BJD Supremo has not opened lips on this issue indicating that he is not bothered on what happened at the funeral of Behera. Instead of gaining public praise over Naveen’s gestures towards martyrs, the MLA’s activities have brought bad name for the regional party. BJP is trying to keep the issue alive till the elections. There is no attempt from the regional party to counter BJP’s allegation.

It is a fact that when the Narendra Modi wave engulfed the entire nation in 2014, it failed to make any impact in Odisha. BJP could win only one Lok Sabha seat. The saffron party could not get any benefit from the Modi wave in the Assembly elections.

However, things have changed now as Mr.Modi is no more an unknown figure for the people of Odisha. In 2014, he was considered an outsider from Gujarat and therefore could not win the confidence of Odia people, while Naveen enhanced his
The Pulwama incident has boosted Mr.Modi’s image and the people of Odisha, particularly its youth and middle class, have started praising Modi’s stand against Pakistan. The people here have started believing that Mr.Modi could be the Prime Minister again.
What actually disturbs BJD leaders is that if people vote for Modi in Lok Sabha elections, they may also push the button on the Lotus symbol for the Assembly seat.
Unemployment, price rise, particularly fuel price, demonetization and other issues which worked against BJP, have now become secondary, as Pulwama dominates the scene. This is what worries BJD poll managers.
Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, a day after the 26 February air strike, had said that India's pre-emptive strikes on terror camps in Pakistan had created a wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and would help BJP win over 22 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka. This has emboldened the BJP workers and leaders in Odisha.
However, a section of BJD leaders claim that Mr.Modi’s gain would be loss for Congress and it has nothing to do with Naveen Patnaik. The Chief Minister’s welfare schemes and his target voters like women, youth and farmers are solidly behind BJD. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s strategy can hardly bring down Naveen’s popularity.
Odisha has continued to remain with the regional party for the last 19 years and they are comfortable with that because of developmental activities. Odisha has rejected the national parties and will continue to take the same stand in the upcoming elections, BJD leaders argue. But they admit that Pulwama will have its bearing on the state politics.

Even as opposition parties in the country have started making allegations that BJP has been attempting to take credit from the achievements of armed forces, saffron leaders are all set to send the Pulwama message to every nook and corner of the country including Odisha. Against this backdrop, strategy to be adopted by the ruling BJD and the opposition Congress to counter the Pulwama pull for BJP will be keenly watched by political observers.

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