Bhubaneswar: The up and down of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Odisha has once again created confusion among the people as well the saffron brigade across the state. The lotus is not beaming, but instead, it is getting shrivelled as is evident from the recently concluded three-tier panchayat elections in the state. The party which has secured 297 Zilla Parishad seats in 2017 rural polls and subsequently raised its tally in 2019 general elections by winning 8 Lok Sabha seats and 23 Assembly seats, has suddenly lost its lustre and now resembles the Congress, which has been ousted from power for two decades. The saffron party could win only 42 ZP seats, 255 less than 2017. The ruling BJD on the other hand raised its tally from 476 in 2017 to 766 this time.
The panchayat poll results have given a clear message that the BJP has utterly failed to retain its place. The party’s fortune is on a sharp decline. However, while accepting the peoples’ verdict, BJP State President Samir Mohanty said the party had certainly lost above 250 ZP seats, but not its vote share. While the BJP’s vote share in 2017 was about 32 per cent, it has come down slightly to 30.07 per cent. He and other saffron leaders expressed dismay that just a difference of two percent vote share caused such a colossus loss of 255 seats! Many leaders were shocked when they found BJD at a place much beyond their expectation. As many as 63,23,746 of the 2,10,28,403 voters have supported the BJP.
To make matters worse, the BJP candidates have failed to open their accounts in 10 districts including some of its strongholds like Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj and Bargarh. The BJP had last time formed Zilla Parishads in eight districts and is now unable to make a claim for even one district! This is the sorry state of affairs in the BJP where the leaders and workers were worried at the prospect of facing tantrums from the BJD brigade in the nook and corner of the state. The lotus has now shrunk in the countryside badly even though its vote share is not poor.
While the party is yet to undertake any proper “chintan” on its poor performance in the rural polls, State BJP leadership is saving its face with the vote percentage that saffron candidates secured. But, in a democracy, winning numbers are important which the party failed to secure. The difference between the vote share of BJP and the BJD is almost 20 percent. In other words, Naveen Patnaik’s party continues to maintain its vote share in all successive elections. However, if the saffron party goes on losing numbers even after having its government at the Centre, how can people repose their trust in the party?
BJP leaders have all along given slogans like “Sab Ka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Viswas.” However, the party in Odisha in the rural polls has lost all the three – Saath, Vikas & Viswas.” If the party is unable to get “Viswas” of all, how can it replace Naveen Patnaik’s BJD?
Interestingly, the people, who were disgruntled in the BJD and Congress, were planning to join BJP in the aftermath of the rural and urban polls. Now, keeping in view the poor acceptability of saffron by the village people, most of them have started re-thinking whether it would not be suicidal to join the BJP in Odisha.
The senior saffron leaders like Jai Narayan Mishra, Suresh Pujari, Baijayant Panda, Aparajita Sarangi, Manmohan Samal, BisheswarTudu, Pratap Sarangi and Jual Oram, have not spoken much in public. But all of them were not happy over the manner in which Samir Mohanty managed the rural polls. Veteran saffron leader Bijay Mohapatra, however, pointed out as to how the party had not even held a proper meeting of all the stakeholders before going to the panchayat polls, which is also considered as the “semi-final,” before the 2024 General Elections.
Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi, who is set to play a major role in the ensuing ULB elections in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, where polling is slated to be held on March 24, however, invoked party ideologue and former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s poem: ““क्या हार में, क्या जीत में किंचित नहीं भयभीत मैं कर्तव्य पथ पर जो मिला यह भी सही वो भी सही वरदान नहीं मांगूंगा हो कुछ, पर हार नहीं मानूँगा।” — which means that there is nothing in winning or losing, but we have to continue to work hard.
Vajpayee ji’s poem seems the only alternative left for the BJP leaders and workers to work hard in the ensuing urban polls. Everybody knows that the saffron party would be wiped out of Odisha politics or at least come to be known as a ‘sign board’ party, if it repeats the results of panchayat polls in the ensuing Urban Local Body elections.
Therefore, the saffron brigade, if it wants to remain alive in the state politics, has to make drastic changes in its attitude and approach. This is probably the last chance for the party to rise above the factions and give importance to all the significant people in the party notwithstanding their links and associations. There should be no Pradhan Group or Anti Pradhan Group. Before going to the people and meeting the party’s rank and file, the senior leaders must first come to one platform and shun differences and stop cutting each other’s base. Though fissure in opposition Congress is quite visible, the BJP leaders also fight among themselves under the cover of a “Disciplined Party” tag. The 2022 rural poll results have also exposed the internal bickering in the BJP. Had the party been united, there was no question of its losing more than 250 ZP seats.
This apart, poor leadership, lack of coordination, poor management, ignoring people having election management skills altogether account for the BJP’s sorry state of affairs. The BJP leaders may deny in public regarding differences within the party, but the poll results clearly and loudly expose the internal bickering like Congress. Will BJP national leadership take a call as the Odisha unit of the party is going on the Congress way towards decimation?