Loss Of Identity

If you can’t beat them, join them -- this popular saying has been traced to the 1930s. However, in Odisha politics this mantra has been adopted by both the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This policy has been adopted by both the parties, particularly after the results of the 2019 general elections were announced on 23 May.

This time the results have given a clear message that it is very difficult to oust Naveen from Odisha politics. This is the biggest threat to Modi, who has successfully eliminated regional parties in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and other places.

Mr.Modi’s BJP has also shaken West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress. But it did not get its desired result in Odisha even as the saffron party made considerable inroads into the state.

Though BJP had set Mission 120 Plus for Odisha, the party could win only 23 Assembly seats, while BJD roped in 112 seats in a 147-member House. However, people of Odisha chose Modi for the Lok Sabha and elected 8 BJP members to the Upper House of the Parliament. This time BJD got 12 seats, eight less than the 2014 polls. Therefore, both Naveen and Modi feel the threat from each other. Naveen knows it better that if he relaxes, BJP will take advantage, while BJP feels that BJD still rules the heart of the poor.

Under such circumstances, though not openly talked, both Naveen and Modi join hands and want to create better opportunity for their respective parties. Modi’s game plan is clear. He wants to weaken the BJD and to get advantage.

As an intelligent politician, Mr.Modi knows it well that Naveen gets elected five times in a row because of BJD’s regional tag. Naveen has already made the people believe that the BJD alone is dedicated to protecting Odisha’s interest.   

Therefore, BJD is also having only one agenda -- ‘Odisha’s Development’. Naveen has successfully converted this sentiment of people into votes. The regional tag of the party is the biggest USP (unique selling proposition) for the BJD, which Modi wants to strip.

However, the fear of losing the regional tag has now emerged as a major cause of concern for the ruling party. Apparently, by using different techniques, may be persuasion or arm twisting, BJP has been successful in getting advantage. 

When Naveen announced his party’s support to a BJP candidate in the recently concluded Rajya Sabha elections, the saffron party won in its mission. By gifting a Rajya Sabha seat to BJP, BJD has given a clear signal to the people of Odisha that both the parties have an understanding. You vote for BJD, the benefit will ultimately go to BJP. People of Odisha have got this message. 

That the people see no difference between BJD and BJP was evident from the recently concluded Patkura Assembly election, feel political analysts. Though the seat was retained by BJD, opposition BJP candidate Bijay Mohapatra got more than 78,000 votes. The vote difference between BJD and BJP was only 17,920. But the fact remains that Mohapatra in 2019 got 50,000 more votes than the BJP candidate got in 2014 polls.

Though Naveen has been wondering over the votes polled by Bijay, it is evident that people see no difference between BJD and BJP. Therefore, they voted Mohapatra in large numbers though he lost the polls. This trend is likely to continue, said a worried BJD leader.

BJD has been advocating from the day one for Special Category Status for Odisha. Meanwhile, the NDA government has categorically said that there is no such provision after the formation of Niti Aayog and the centre has no such plan to accord the status to Odisha.

What has surprised the people of Odisha is that BJD remained silent and none including Naveen opposed the Union Minister’s statement. It is another matter that the Chief Minister has been raising special category issue in a different platform. But, people have mostly considered Naveen’s demand as “routine” having no tangible impact.

Though none including Naveen has said in words that BJD’s support is based on the assurance for the special focus state tag by Modi, no one should forget how TDP pulled out of the NDA after being betrayed over the special category status. Therefore, expecting a special category or special focus tag from the centre may not be wise.

The saffron party for its own political compulsion will never accord special status to the BJD-ruled Odisha. Though the state deserves such a status, Modi will keep in mind the benefit for his saffron party. Now BJD is wholeheartedly supporting NDA government in all matters and in the process the party is losing its regional identity.

The BJD has provided unconditional support to the NDA government headed by Modi. Be it Triple Talaq Bill or the RTI (Amendment) Bill or even the Inter-state river dispute tribunal issue, BJD has extended full support to the NDA government, giving a clear message that the regional party has completely surrendered to the saffron party. This has, in fact, created panic among the senior leaders in the regional party. They apprehend that road is being prepared to allow BJP to take over Odisha.    

And the whole process will be completed in next four-and-half years, they believe. NDA government in the past has refused to come to Odisha’s rescue on several occasions, specifically on SCS issue and Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh. But the regional outfit, which came with strong rhetoric, agenda and slogans in the 2019 polls has intriguingly changed its stand and is quietly losing its regional flavour. 

The BJP has gained a lot at the cost of the BJD. Now, one has to watch whether Naveen and his party too gain after making a series of sacrifices, as everybody knows Naveen is a tough gentleman and is politically sharp. Will he allow losing his USP? This is a million dollar question being raised in political circles and the BJD supremo only knows the answer.

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