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Poll Silence Hurts

Bhubaneswar: It is said silence is always blissful. However, the silence during festival season is certainly not. Festival means lot of joy, noise and merry making. When the entire country is celebrating the ‘Festival of Democracy’ i.e elections, there is unprecedented silence in Odisha.

This is because the state’s two main political parties are in a fix. The announcement of election dates by the Election Commission of India on Saturday, has failed to break the silence. The entire state appeared to be silent mode and no one is seen celebrating the biggest festival of the world’s biggest democracy in this coastal state.

The people do not get voice on how to react over the election date announcement when the state’s two major party- the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  are not sure whether to go for a pre-poll alliance or not.

While sources said that the topmost leadership of BJD and the BJP are in the mood to go for an alliance, the rank and file of both the parties are against it. But, the party leaders in the state and at the grass root level have no voice to protest though a section of BJP people have expressed their opinion against a pre-poll alliance. It appears that the BJD’s entire team is silent; even they do not have the scope to express their displeasure.

The State BJP President Manmohan Samal, who openly announced that his party would go alone in the upcoming elections, has paid a heavy price. He has to take a U turn and later announce that the party top leaders will take a decision whether the saffron brigade will so solo or not. Many BJP leaders like MP Jual Oram and MP Pratap Sarangi have openly opposed the idea of an alliance. However, it seems that their opposition has little impact.  

Though they remain silent, the BJD leaders and rank and file  also not satisfied over the idea of the pre-poll alliance with the BJP whom they have been strongly opposing in the ground level. “How can we take BJP people into confidence and campaign for their candidates in the elections,” asked a BJD leader. Similar was also the reaction of BJP leaders.

Elections in Odisha has always been violence free, but never silent as it is happing now. The party workers do campaign against each other. There were competitions among parties to occupy space on roadside empty walls. The party workers also shout on top of their voices using loudspeaker during campaigning creating a all together different atmosphere.

Electioneering has all along been source of joy for the party workers. Therefore, the ECI in his media brief described it as the “Festival of Democracy”.  However, the prevailing silence has made the party people to go on silent mode. The festival has already begun across the country, except Odisha as many people now look at the PM-CM who hold string to their happiness.

If there is no alliance, the silence may break. If the alliance is formalized, the silence may also deepen even as the parties announce name of their candidates. Many leaders fear that they may be denied party ticket as the seat which they represented earlier and want to represent fall in share of the other party. Either way, one party will be unhappy if the other party gets the ticket. In the process, the state this time may witness many independent candidates in the fray due to the alliance factor.

Taking media into confidence, a BJP leader said that National Leadership needs to feel the pain of the state leaders and the grass root level workers. Everybody is ready for a fight and they have done it since 2009. They have practiced to oppose each other. However, when the real battle starts for the 2024 elections, it is something like taking away the arms from a soldier. This is the case for both the BJD and the BJP. The real foot soldiers who work at the ground level and bring votes to the polling stations are  demoralized. They are ready to fight, but they have to surrender before the enemy as their parties at the top level have y forged alliance.

The situations for both the parties are similar. Both the BJD and the BJP will go to the battle ground with reluctant soldiers, who are mentally demoralized and weak.

This is the case because, another major party Congress is not in a situation to take benefit from the opportunity. The Congress is almost out of the ring as its vote share in subsequent elections has come down. Now the Congress vote share is about 16 per cent as BJP raised its strength while BJD maintained its position since 2009.

Adding to the BJD and BJP’s situation, the Congress people are also silent as the party maintains a wait and watch policy. The Congress is on a strategy to take benefit out of the situation. But, the people in Congress under the prevailing situation do not have the capacity to grab the power. The party has neither the men, muscle nor money required to win elections, pointed a political observer.

Anyway, the 2004 election scenario is something different from all the elections in the past. Silence prevails and workers as well as leaders are clueless.