BJP Needs To Mend Ways

A visit to Mundali near Cuttack in mid-August shows the sorry state of affairs of Odisha’s lifeline, River Mahanadi. The riverbed is dry even at the peak of the monsoon. Thanks to the neighbouring Chhattisgarh government that raised illegal constructions on upstream of the river which led to scanty flow of water downstream. There is no way out to save the state’s lifeline on which people of more than 14 districts depend.

Though ruling BJD took up the matter of late, there is no unanimity on the political front. The saffron party which emerged as a potential opposition in the state unfortunately sided with Chhattisgarh and acted as a “Resident Commissioner” of the neighbouring state. All other political parties including BJD, Congress, CPI, CPI (M), Samajwadi Party, RJD, Forward Block and others are united on the Mahanadi issue while BJP stands isolated.

Immediately after the results of the three-tier panchayat elections were declared, a public perception gained ground that BJP has the potential to emerge as a strong opposition party.  People, who have become restless due to the rampant corruption, mal-administration and nepotism at the grassroots, had a relief that BJP would give a befitting reply to the Naveen Patnaik dispensation. However, BJP’s stands on crucial issues have frustrated many people.
Take the instance of River Mahanadi. BJP even remained silent even as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered Chhattisgarh to stop construction of at least six projects on the upstream of Mahanadi.  When the people of Odisha cheered the NGT Judgement, BJP preferred to go along with Chhattisgarh, ignoring Odisha’s interests.
BJP leaders have the impression that they performed very well in the Zilla Parishad elections in districts located along the Mahanadi bank and therefore, there is no danger in supporting to Chhattisgarh government.  However, people have realised that construction of projects on the upstream has affected the flow of water in the Mahanadi. Therefore, BJP needs to change its strategy if it sincerely wants to win the hearts of people in Odisha and emerge as an alternative to BJD.
BJP, according to political observers, has all along been maintaining a stand which is against the popular issues of Odisha.
In case of hiking the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy, BJP’s stand was against poor farmers, some of whom have committed suicide.  Though BJP supported other parties in the State Legislative Assembly in passing a resolution to demand fixing Rs 2930 as the MSP per quintal of paddy, the saffron party later remained silent when the NDA government did not raise the MSP to a desirable figure.
Many people in Odisha, mostly farmers, believe that had BJP and its leader Dharmendra Pradhan tried at the central level, the MSP on paddy would have been hiked. But the saffron party did not look to the interest of 70 per cent population of the state, who are dependent on paddy cultivation. After the Mahanadi, BJP again frustrated the people of Odisha. 
In case of Special Category Status (SCS) for Odisha, BJP in its manifesto had committed to fight for the state. However, after NDA came to  power in 2014, the party preferred to forget the promise. Now Union Ministers have gone on saying that giving SCS is not possible after the formation of Niti Aayog.
BJP, in its bid to defend itself, blamed Naveen Patnaik for being part of the NitiAyog which made provision of no SCS to any state. Even the party did not advocate for Special Assistance for Odisha as given to Bihar. Odisha is the only state in the country which has a huge tribal population. This apart, being a calamity prone state, Odisha loses about Rs 2,000 crore every year due to nature’s fury. Therefore, to make Odisha stand up, Special Assistance is most essential if the Centre denies a SCS to the state.
In case of Raghunath Murmu Medical College and Hospital at Baripada, BJP’s stand was further exposed when the Medical Council of India (MCI) rejected permission to operate. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Oversight Committee that came to Odisha’s rescue and allowed operation of the RMMCH at Baripada.  Though Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan took up the matter with Union Health Minister J P Nadda, he could not come to the rescue of the Medical College and Hospital in Mayurbhaj district that gave a landslide victory to BJP in the Zilla Parishad elections.
BJP, which has only 10 MLAs in the House of 147 members, however, expects 120 MLAs in the next general elections in 2019. Will BJP National President Amit Shah’s calculations come true if BJP ignores the interest of the people?  BJP claims that it has been fighting for the people of the state, but it needs to prove its credibility.    For BJP or any other political party, things are not that easy as the saffron brigade believes. One has to win the confidence of the people before getting their votes. Naveen has done it to certain extent by introducing cheap rice and several pro-people schemes.  As a regional outfit, BJD is continuously raising the aspirations of  people, which BJP is seen missing.
BJP’s most popular Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana, under which poor people get free cooking gas, has also faced hurdles and disappointed the beneficiaries after the Union Government announced price hike on LPG cylinders. Many beneficiaries have started going back to their traditional mode of cooking with the fear that they cannot afford the hiked price of LPG cylinders. Under such circumstances, BJP has no other alternative, but to prove its sincerity. 
A group of leaders in the state have landed the saffron party in trouble for not having adequate field experience in reading the people’s pulse.  BJP leaders in Odisha need to understand people’s perception, which is very important. When saffron brigade is out to dislodge a deeply rooted BJD, their distance from peoples’ cause will turn a stumbling block to achieving their goal. 

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