Hate Congress;Love Congressmen

He hates Congress, calling it “corrupt” and keeps the party at bay. Yet he loves Congressmen and women. This became evident when the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) President Naveen Patnaik embraced former Union Minister Chandrasekhar Sahu and inducted late Congress MLA Subal Sahu’s wife Rita Sahu to the regional outfit.

If Congress is corrupt, how come its Members become holy cows? This is the question making rounds in political circles in general and BJD circles in particular, as they fail to understand the strategy adopted by Naveen Patnaik.

Many BJD veterans and senior leaders are left in utter confusion as they now have to make homes with those leaders who fought against the regional outfit since decades. Chandrasekhar Sahu contested Naveen Patnaik in Lok Sabha polls in Aska earlier. The staunch Congressman from Ganjam has the distinction of siding with PV Narasihma Rao at the cost of Biju Patnaik.

Chandasekhar Sahu and Rita Sahu are not isolated cases; many such Congress members have so far joined BJD. Grassroots level regional party workers and leaders are forced to make adjustment with them. Even some senior leaders like Berhampur MP Siddhant Mohapatra and Minister Surjya Narayan Patro appeared unhappy over the induction of Chandrasekhar Sahu.

In Bargarh too, Prasanna Acharya and others were not happy when Naveen roped in Rita Sahu to BJD fold. Even former MLA Ashok Panigrahi left BJD and joined BJP as a mark of protest in Bijepur where, by-polls were held in February.

In fact, BJD leaders and workers across the state are not happy over the new strategy adopted by Naveen Patnaik and they wonder if the Chief Minister was not the sole decision maker behind acceptance of Congress leaders in BJD. Since Congress is the main opposition party in Odisha, BJD people do not accept them heartily and are worried over the new trend.

When Naveen had brought the then Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh of Congress to the party, it was considered a master stroke. However, the situation has completely changed now. Congress has lost its glory in the state and its leaders are desperate to jump out of the already sunk ship.

The BJD leaders, who have been victims to the Congress leaders’ ire in the past, are now unable to accept them. BJD people have all along wanted to teach Congressmen a lesson.

But, when time comes to kneel them down, Naveen has laid red carpet for Congress leaders, pointed out a senior leader from Ganjam district, adding that there is absolutely no need to rehabilitate opposition leaders at the cost of own leaders and workers.

He also said that though people are not daring openly to oppose Naveen’s move, they are not happy to join hands with Congress leaders with whom they fought tooth and nail for the last 18 years.

The new move of Naveen has in fact created a panic situation in BJD as some of them are lobbying to retain their position as the party supremo is in the poaching mode, notwithstanding worth of the prey.

For instance; Chandrasekhar Sahu. Can he win a poll in the present situation without the support of Naveen? No. Like many in BJD, Sahu also cannot win the polls on his own. Naveen has to put his all out effort to ensure the victory of Chandrasekhar Sahu.

Everybody in the ruling BJD knows that Naveen is the lone leader in the state and also in the ruling party, who can ensure victory of candidates. Only 30 candidates in the last general elections could win the polls without the help of Naveen Patnaik. Naveen ensured victory of 117 MLAs and 20 of the 21 MPs in the state.

When Naveen is considered the sole leader, who has to play vital role in winning polls, what is the need to create a crowd by bringing leaders from Congress? It is another matter if Naveen poaches leaders from BJP. This is because, so far BJP has not been able to challenge BJD though the saffron party could emerge winners in some parts of Odisha during the Zilla Parishad elections. The BJD people may accept BJP leaders easily than embracing the Congress men, said a political observer.

As Naveen Patnaik is in the poaching spree and targets Congress and BJP leaders, the leaders in BJD are forced to take shelters of IAS and IPS officers as they know that the bureaucratic lobby works in the ruling party.
“It is better to keep the officers in good mood in order to remain safe in BJD. The leaders who keep officers happy have been enjoying benefits,” said a senior leader who was dropped from the Council of Ministers last year.
Political analysts are of the opinion that the BJD Supremo ahead of the 2019 general elections has been creating a situation for a one-to-one fight instead of multi-corner contest. BJD is unlikely to gain from the straight fight. The opposition BJP now wants a straight fight which will benefit the saffron outfit in the coming elections. And BJD leaders are now left clueless, confused and hopeless as Naveen goes on poaching spree.  
Political analysts feel that as more and more Congress leaders are joining BJD, there will be hardly any multi-cornered contest. And even if BJP loses seats in the one-to-one fight, its vote share will certainly increase and the party will be successful in establishing a pan-Odisha network, which it is grossly lacking now.
As Naveen still goes strong, the saffron party may not win polls in the 2019 elections, but it will be able to increase its strength, if Odisha becomes “Congress-free” as Naveen has made Ganjam such a Congress-free district.
It is now apprehended that during the time of elections, some of the BJD leaders may also join BJP, if Naveen continues to induct Congress leaders into the party. This will create more trouble for the regional outfit, which is eyeing 130 Assembly seats in 2019 polls.

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