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BJP Lacks Cohesion

Bhubaneswar: While the Governing Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is reigning supreme in Odisha’s political scenario, there should be no doubt that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a possibility having all potential to become the future.  The saffron party which was reduced to almost ‘Zero’ after breaking of the BJD-BJP alliance in 2009, has emerged from the ground zero situation and become the state’s principal opposition party in a span of one decade in 2019. Therefore, the BJP has a future while the Congress boat is gradually sinking with consecutive elections.

However, can the saffron party snatch away power from BJD after the 2014 elections? Beginning from Amit Shah to Dharmendra Pradhan and Manmohan Samal, all are optimistic on BJP coming to power in Odisha after next general elections for the State Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections.

It may sound strange keeping in view the present mood of the saffron party in the state, lack of cohesion in the state unit of the party and absence of a powerful and charismatic leadership to lead the saffron brigade. The BJP has been lacking in these points, which are the major hurdles before the party.  

The BJP leadership is optimistic that its next success is apparently based on its earlier performances in 2014 and 2019 general elections. In 2014 assembly elections, the BJP’s vote share in Odisha was only 18 per cent which made a long jump and touched 32 per cent in 2019 polls, a growth of 14 per cent. Similarly, the saffron party which secured 21.5 percent of votes in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, increased its vote share to 42.80 per cent, a growth of 16.81 per cent. Taking average growth, the party increased its vote share by 15 per cent in a span of five years between 2014 and 2019. In the same yardstick and if one goes by the statistics, the BJP in 2024 polls may increase its vote share to 45 per cent, more than the vote captured by the ruling BJD.

However, in politics, two plus two does not always make four.   It may be 4 or 44. Therefore, it may be wrong if one concludes that BJP is all set to form a government in Odisha. There are several factors which altogether create an atmosphere for a political party to win the confidence of the people and form government. Naveen Patnaik’s regional party, though huge in size, has all the ingredients to form a government. There is absolutely no challenge to the leadership of Naveen Patnaik and he is the Supremo in the regional outfit and there is no second leader in BJD. People of Odisha know that stamping their votes on conch symbol is strengthening Naveen Patnaik, a leader having trust of crores of people in the state.

But, when it comes to BJP, there is no such leader in the lotus party in Odisha to match Naveen’s charishma. This is not all.  There is also not one leader on whom the people will trust and vote for him. Hence, Odisha BJP leadership lacks charisma as Naveen has. The only face to which the people of Odisha recognize is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is in fact difficult for the people to decide whom to vote for if they cast their mark on the lotus symbol.        

In a recent event, senior BJP leader and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that the BJP will go to twin polls for Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly next year without projecting anyone as party’s chief ministerial candidate. The party will elect its leader for the number one post after elections as it has done in some other states like Maharashtra and Haryana. At the same time, Shri Pradhan also claimed that the BJP will form government in Odisha after the 2024 twin elections. Will BJP’s strategy in this regard bear fruit or the party will be frustrated as earlier?

The supporters of BJP including village level party workers are confused over the state leadership. When Manmohan Samal is made the state president, he is unable to form his own team in districts. All the district presidents have served for long time and Shri Samal had been unable to replace them, though he sincerely wants to present a new team. A state president used to implement party programs through the district presidents. If the district presidents are not up mto the expectations of the State President, what can he do? How to implement programs and also strengthen booths at the village level? Things are really difficult for Shri Samal as he will be accountable for both the good and bad performance of the party in Odisha.

Shri Samal after becoming the party president had announced for a collective leadership in Odisha. This means, some senior leaders from different regions will be put in charge of the party affairs. Though Shri Samal had been party president for several months, no such collective leadership has emerged in the Odisha BJP. It is a fact that several programs like collection of sacred soil from different regions are being carried out, connecting to booths, empowering the grass root workers are going on. The party rank files are united for programs, still they do not know who their leader. Is it Manmohan Samal or Dharmendra Pradhan or Aparajita Sarangi. No one has clue.

Besides, the party’s eight elected MPs are also not sure whether they will be contesting the elections from the same parliamentary seat?  As BJP has now been fielding MPs in assembly seats, they are confused on the future course of action.

Anyway, time has come for the BJP to organize itself as the elections are not far away. First of all, there should present  united leadership and distribution of responsibilities besides projecting a leader to whom the people of Odisha will vote. The 2024 election is very conducive for the saffron party keeping in view the BJD’s overstay in power. Can the BJP leaders take advantage of this political situation? Time will tell, feel political observers.