Bhubaneswar: Eminent author John Milton’s famous line: “The childhood shows the man, as the morning shows the day,” is a good guide to visualize what is in store for Odisha in the coming days when the state faces the rural and urban polls besides the cooperative elections. It is not difficult to guess the future keeping in view the prevailing political situation in the state with the three major parties in a furious mode. Now, the main instrument to humiliate the opponent party leader is an “innocent” egg and nobody knows whether the bombs and guns will replace the egg as the state holds the local body elections in 2022.
All the three major parties – the ruling BJD headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, opposition BJP and Congress – appeared to have been charged with politics of revenge and retaliation across the state. BJD, BJP and Congress have taken up egg hurling with great gusto. Naveen was also not spared the agony in Puri while returning from a religious ceremony linked to Shree Jagannath Temple. The saffron party, which claimed to be championing the Hindutva, did not hesitate to hurl eggs targeting Naveen’s convoy. Eggs are considered non-vegetarian and are strict no-no on festivals or during religious activities.
This is not all. The opposition BJP activists also sprinkled sacred cow dung water to purify the Grand Road in front of Shree Jagannath Temple claiming that the God’s path was desecrated due to movement of a few tainted Ministers in Puri. This, itself indicated the extent of hatred lurking in the opposition party leaders towards the ministers and the governing party. Immediately after the egg hurling incident the saffron leaders proudly announced that they had done it. BJP Youth Morcha State President Irasish Acharya also announced that they will continue to agitate till the Chief Minister removes the tainted ministers. The BJP in its State Executive meeting held recently also in its political resolution came down heavily on the BJD Government for failure in all fronts and particularly held the Chief Minister responsible for the crimes against women, which they claimed had risen manifold. There are four rapes, six kidnappings everyday besides 27,000 children missing cases registered in the last five years.
The ongoing egg hurling frenzy has gripped all the parties. The BJD activists have also allegedly engaged in it twice targeting Union Minister Bisheswar Tudu and also BJP’s Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi. The fire brand saffron leader, who is also a bureaucrat turned politician, took no time in giving a different color to the incident. Aparajita said as a woman, she does not feel secure in the state capital. She also announced that BJP would raise the issues of women insecurity and atrocities in the Parliament.
Interestingly, the parties which are condemning the egg throwing practice, themselves indulge in it. While two prominent leaders of BJP have recently faced egg attacks, the saffron party itself has adopted the same to protest the ruling party leaders. About a dozen State Ministers have faced either egg attack or black flag demonstration. Both the BJP and Congress target the BJD leaders while the regional party activists have adopted the same retaliation against the saffron leaders. However, no Congress leader has so far faced such humiliation as the country’s oldest party remained out of power for over 21 years in the state and 7 years at the Centre.
BJD Bargarh MLA Debesh Acharya led party cadres on 24 June, 2016, allegedly to throw eggs and stones at the Union Minister Santosh Gangwar at Gandhi Square in Bargarh. BJD workers had even targeted the then Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and many other saffron leaders.
Another such incident came to the fore a day after Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik said that egg hurling will not solve any problem in the state. However, the Congress activists hurled eggs at BJP leader Aparajita Sarangi at Balipatna.
The egging incident which was last seen in 2018 ahead of the 2019 general elections when a woman hurled the ovum targeting the Chief Minister at a meeting in Balasore’s Talsari area, seems to have returned to the centre stage, after opposition demanded resignation of MoS (Home) Dibya Shankar Mishra for his alleged links with the prime accused in the Kalahandi woman teacher’s kidnap and murder case. Egg hurling has been going on for the past 75 days across the state.
The entire political situation across the state simmers and no party is ready to allow the opponents get away with any mode of protest. All want to grab people’s attention and defame others at the slightest opportunity. Once the election schedules are made public, the egging may be replaced with something worse. The rivals may change their ammunition and no one can guarantee that the lethal weapons will not be used during the rural and urban elections, which are considered the dress rehearsal before the 2024 general elections.
This is high time for the chiefs of all the major parties to exercise their discretion and ask their rank and files to restrain and shun politics of revenge. That the OPCC President had no control over his party was evident when the Congress activists hurled eggs on a BJP leader a day after Niranjan Patnaik condemned such an incident.
It is another matter that the leaders of majority parties have urged the State Election Commission (SEC) to ban alcohol consumption during the panchayat elections. It is certainly a good move. Similarly, the party chiefs should come forward and issue notice to the activists and supporters not to use eggs during demonstrations in the run up to the elections.
If things are not corrected immediately, it may become difficult for the leaders to restrain their activists at the peak of revenge politics. BJD President Naveen Patnaik, OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik and BJP State President Samir Mohanty would be held responsible for the possible violence in coming days.
Odisha leaders must take a lesson from John Milton’s famous quote and save Odisha from becoming a Bihar or West Bengal.