Bhubaneswar: “A week is a long time in politics”. This famous quote of former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson is apt for Odisha where fast changes in the political landscape is the order of the day. The fortunes of a political party or a group and its equation with like-minded parties can go topsy-turvy in the course of a single week.
Odisha politics has been on the boil for over one week following the escape from custody of the prime accused in the Kalahandi lady teacher murder case. It is alleged that the accused was allowed to escape with the intervention of the Minister of State for Home. The accused is thought to be a close aide of the Minister. Police say that the accused, having a fracture on his leg, scaled the boundary wall and fled away taking advantage of the power disruption at the police barrack. This is a long story. However, the fact remains that the incident has snowballed into a major political storm in the cyclone month of October.
The nook and corner of the state has been witnessing all types of protests demanding resignation of the Minister. The state’s principal opposition BJP, which has often been accused of hobnobbing with the Governing BJD headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, all of a sudden picked up the issue. The saffron party has already pushed its rival Congress to the third position in the state politics and now took the lead in agitation from the front against the Naveen Patnaik dispensation even as it all along sought assistance of the regional party after 2019 general elections.
The people of this state have seen the BJD and the BJP activists fighting each other on streets before the 2019 general elections and suddenly turned friends in the post result announcement period. The relationship became so sweet that Naveen Patnaik did not hesitate to gift a Rajya Sabha seat to the BJP in 2019. In between, Naveen was more than anxious to support all the Bills and issues of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Even Naveen supported the amendment in the MMDR Act in which the state government lost its authority to recommend any company for a mining lease which has resulted in POSCO quitting Odisha and Vedanta still starving for the raw material.
Odisha can no more give mines to any company at the state’s interest. All the mines will be leased out through auction. This is not all, the BJD leaders who were hitting the streets on 10 paise ihike in the fuel price, also remained silent.
Those were the golden days between BJD and BJP and it took just over a week for a change in the political scenario in the state. BJP has been holding statewide agitations, protests and rallies demanding removal of the Minister of State for Home in the Kalahandi lady teacher case. If Naveen can give a Rajya Sabha seat to BJP, why cannot he sacrifice a tainted Minister?
The saffron party has meanwhile, made it a national issue after the National Commission for Women asking the Chief Minister to drop two ministers from the Council of Ministers as they used to visit the controversial educational institutions run by the prime accused with patronage from the ruling party leaders. The saffron brigade has been conducting bandhs almost every day in each district.
BJP National President J P Nadda also rushed a three-member delegation to Kalahandi which made an on-the-spot inquiry and demanded the MOS’s resignation. This is not all, the BJP has also announced to stage agitation before all the 625 police stations across the state and file FIR against the minister. It is now clear that the central BJP leadership has been monitoring the political developments in Odisha and is all set to defame the Naveen’s government.
BJP Spokesperson Sambit Patra also held a press conference in the party’s headquarters in Delhi just to highlight the issue in the national level. This is now clear that the BJP central leadership has a specific plan for Odisha and the party does not want to let go of the opportunity which came on a platter just a few months before the ensuing rural and urban polls.
Apart from MLAs, the BJP MPs are in the forefront of the agitation which is evident from the participation of Bolangir MP Sangeeta Sighdeo, Kalahandi MP Basant Kumar Panda, Sundergarh MP Jual Oram and Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi.
The BJP’s plan was to take the issue to the optimum level in western districts before the rural and urban polls. The saffron central leadership also considers that Naveen is a soft leader and there is no harm to harp on his party and gain certain political mileage before the twin polls. And the Modi-Shah duo has meanwhile mastered the art of appeasing Naveen at the time of need. Interestingly, Shah has not so far given any statement even as he is the Union Home Minister.
This is not all. The silence of BJP’s face in Odisha and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan creates suspicion in the public mind. Apart from making a tweet, Mr.Pradhan almost kept himself away from the entire episode even as the party activists have taken the agitation to a new height.
The BJP think tank considers that the issue will certainly hit Naveen’s women vote bank. More delay in taking any action, the bigger is the political benefit of the BJP. Naveen’s image, which is the lone asset of the ruling party, would certainly be affected in the process.
Keeping in view the BJP central leadership’s change in mindset, BJD has announced to hit the streets against spiralling fuel price hike and LPG rates. Anyway, the bonhomie between the BJD and the BJP appeared to be over at least till 2024 general elections. However, doubts are raised within the BJP as to whether the state leadership can take advantage over the situation as Mr.Pradhan, who commands maximum support in the party, remained silent. He was considered as the link between the BJD and the BJP’s national leadership.