Plenty Poses Problem

  

When Ananta Narayan Jena was appointed Chairman of Bhubaneswar Development Authority, his supporters were shell shocked. All of them were having high hopes that Jena would fight from Bhubaneswar Central Assembly seat.

This is an indication that more political personalities would be accommodated in these organizations in a move to abort any possible revolt.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his core group feel the heat as there are plenty of ticket aspirants. 

While Odisha’s three major political parties have started the exercise for selecting candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, tension is building up among the aspirants, resulting in simmering discontent.

This time, elections will be held under special circumstances when the ruling BJD has completed 19 years in office and opposition BJP has increased its stakes. The state’s main opposition Congress, which has been kept away from power since decades, now has realized its mistakes and is making its bid for power.

The leaders of different parties are busy fighting among themselves before facing their political rivals in the electoral battlefield. The problem is acute in the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) while Congress leaders are restless to contest polls. For BJP, though the situation is under control, many have started pulling out carpet from the feet of their rivals.

For BJD, candidate selection exercise has become a herculean task. While the state has maximum 168 seats (21 Lok Sabha and 147 Vidhan Sabha), sources claimed that number of aspirants including sitting MLAs is over 1,000.  However, the number is comparatively low in Congress and still less in BJP, a cadre based party which this time will field candidates in all the 168 constituencies. However, infighting is more in BJD than in any other party.  

Many of the BJD leaders have enough resources to face the elections. Money is not a problem for these leaders. There are aspirants who are prepared to spend even to the tune of Rs two crore for Assembly elections, admits an insider.

While there are about 1,000 aspirants, Naveen has to pick up only 168. Therefore, the BJD President has to disappoint 800 plus leaders who are election ready.

And all these 800 aspirants may not agree to cool down and support the official candidate. Now rumors are making rounds that some of the veterans and senior BJD leaders are apprehensive of failing to make it to the final 168.

The rebels may not accept the state leadership’s assurance that they will be suitably accommodated somewhere. They may not go by the assurance of the leadership because all have made calculations that 2019 may be the last election for BJD to win.

The situation will certainly change during the 2024 elections and opposition will further gain ground till then. BJP, which was weak during the 2014 polls, has meanwhile strengthened its base across the state and 2017 panchayat polls are indicators that the opposition is becoming stronger by the day.

Naveen, the lone attraction for BJD, has already crossed 72 years and he will be about 77 years old in 2024. Therefore, he may not undertake vigorous campaign in 2024 elections as he will be doing this time.

So far Naveen has toured all the 30 districts and completed his first phase election campaign much before the notification for the 2019 elections has come out. As the rebels also understand this reality, they may not agree to the assurance by the
 
BJD poll managers that their interest will be protected in the 2024 elections. As a result, a large number of BJD rebels will be found in the fray.   

The poll managers in the BJD are worried over how to tackle the worst possible situation and ensure no division of BJD votes. Once BJD vote is divided, the gainer is ultimately either the Congress or the BJP.

The push and pull among leaders of the same party has reached its zenith as the party leadership is burning midnight oil to ‘zero’ on the right candidates. Selecting a winning horse is very crucial this time because the three major parties know their plus and minus factors before going to polls.

This is not the situation in BJD alone; opposition Congress, which has been virtually starving for power and waiting for 20 years, also finds rebels.

The return of Congress to power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan has given a fresh lease of life for the party which hopes that it has a chance of making a comeback riding on the anti-incumbency factor.

With both BJD and BJP rejecting to go for farm loan waiver, Congress has announced to do it within hours of assuming power in the state. This apart, AICC President Rahul Gandhi’s frontal attack on both Narendra Modi and Naveen Patnaik has encouraged the Congress rank and file who have been told to take forward move instead of playing in back foot.

Indications from the OPCC’s Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) meetings show that there are at least two/three aspirants for each Assembly seat. Congress rebels may pose problem but the party has little opportunity to silence them. Therefore, Congress rebels, though do not have money power as their BJD counterparts do, will still not hesitate to try their luck.

The Congress leadership may assure its rebels that their interest will be protected once the party comes to power, but this may not satisfy them. This is because everybody has more or less concluded that Congress may not reach the position to form government in the state though its total tally of seats is likely to increase.

In case of BJP, there are also rebels in the field. People with RSS background, who are in BJP since long and now sidetracked, may opt to contest the polls as rebels. However, their number is few. As BJP has been taking new people into the party and assuring them tickets, some of the old guards are likely to turn hostile. They may create problem for the party.
 


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