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Eye On Western Odisha

Bhubaneswar: When Governing BJD’s Senior Vice President Prasanna Acharya was busy in mass contact program in Rairakhol Assembly segment, the people of Odisha were served with news that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had dropped Higher Education Minister Rohit Pujari from the Council of Ministers.

Shri Pujari was elected to the Odisha House twice in a row in 2014 and 2019 from Rairakhol and for the first time became a Minister in 2022. He was dropped from the Ministry in about a year’s time on the charges of ‘Inefficiency’. Shri Acharya was elected to the Assembly from Rairakhol before Shri Pujari in 2009. The Rairakhol seat has remained with the BJD since 2000. However, BJD recently lost two grass root level elections to BJP, apparently irking the Big Boss in the State Capital.

Shri Pujari was dropped from the Ministry due to inefficiency, another reason could be political, the political analysts opined. Though several Ministers earlier had been dropped from the Ministry by Naveen Patnaik during his first stint on ‘Shadow of Corruption’ Shri Pujari has been dubbed an ‘Inefficient’ Minister. Earlier, a BJD MLA Pradeep Panigrahi from Chhatrapur, was also expelled from the party on a different charge like being involved in “anti-people” activities. After the shadow of corruption, next was the “anti-people” slur and now the “inefficiency.”

As less than one year left for the next general elections to the Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly, the Governing BJD leadership is in no mood to tolerate any kind of indiscipline in the party. While Shri Acharya was creating his own base in Shri Pujari’s constituency, this angered the incumbment. Keeping that in backdrop, Shri Pujari recently issued a controversial statement saying that politicians above 60 years of age should not contest the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. His target was certainly Shri Acharya, however,  Shri Pujari’s opponent used it in a different manner for which the Rairakhol Law Maker has to pay a big price.

All said and done, Shri Pujari’s exclusion from the Ministry is a message for the Ministers to perform or perish.  On political front it seems that BJD is looking for more seats in Western Odisha. Shri Pujari was not active in the area as a number of BJD leaders have brought the issue to the notice of High Command. Sinvce then Veteran BJD Leader Shri Achrya was campaigning in Rairakhol.

As BJD is paying more attention for Western Odisha the party could also gain if it can satisfy the supporters of Bhatli MLA Sushant Singh, who has been kept out of Ministry for a long time. The space created due to Shri Pujari’s exclusion from the Ministry, that could be filled by Sushant Singh, a strong BJD leader having his organization network over several Western Odisha districts. Though Shri Singh belonged to Bargarh district, he has a strong following in Jharsuguda, Samlapur, Bolangir and some other districts of Western Odisha. If the party takes Singh into the ministry, the BJD workers, particularly those who are supporters of the Bhatli MLA, would be encouraged to work for the 2024 elections.

On the other hand Shri Acharya, a strong man from Bargarh district, would get a constituency to fight the polls and thus help better than Shri Pujari, the BJD leadership considers.

Anyway, the fight between BJD and the BJP has started across the state, more vigorously in western region of the state as the saffron party performed comparatively better in these areas. All the five Lok Sabha seats like Sambalpur, Bargarh, Kalahandi, Bolangir and Sundergarh, are in the hands of BJP. BJP’s three other LS seats were: Mayurbhanj, Balasore and Bhubaneswar.

As the fight between BJD and BJP intensifies, the BJD was in no mood to allow the saffron party candidates win the five Lok Sabha seats in the western region. The BJD this time has set a target to win more Lok Sabha seats and Assembly seats in Western Odisha.

The Governing BJD knows it well that its base was very strong in the coastal region comprising the districts of Cuttack, Puri, Bhadrak, Balasore,  Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Khurda and Ganjam. Its position was also solid in the districts of Nayagarh, Kandhamal, Boudh, Rayagada, Koraput and some others. Therefore, in a bid to secure more Lok Sabha seats, it is obvious that the BJD would concentrate on Western Odisha in order to snatch away some seats from BJP.

Therefore, the regional party has prepared a separate strategy for Western Odisha and Shri Pujari’s exit from Ministery could be a step towards that direction. The BJD at any cost would ensure that the regional party candidates won in all the five Lok sabha seats in the Western Odisha. That is why BJD Strong Man Pranab Prakash Das has been assigned Sambalpur District.

Another theory is making rounds that some of the Western Odisha Lawmakers are in touch with BJP Leaders. The BJD has meanwhile identified such leaders who have links with the saffron party and would take the right decision at the proper time, pointed out a veteran leader of the party.

Anyway, when the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister Home Affairs Amit Shah had adopted “Look East” policy to raise their tally in the Lok Sabha, the regional BJD here prefers have an “Eye On West”as it wants to increase strength in the Lower house of the Parliament.