Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s BJD seems unstoppable keeping in view the results of the recently concluded three-tier panchayat and urban local bodies elections. The ruling party bagged 766 of 852 Zilla Parishad seats and also 76 of the 108 chairman/mayor posts in urban polls. The BJD also formed Parishad in all the 30 districts and secured a majority in 95 ULBs. All these figures reestablished that the BJD was in fact unstoppable leaving no future for opposition BJP and Congress which stood far behind Naveen’s party.
While the state’s principal opposition BJP was mum over its performance in the recently concluded twin polls ahead of the 2024 General elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assembly, Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi is not ready to accept the invincibility of BJD. She feels that the BJD can be defeated if the state BJP leadership becomes strong.
Her statement has created a flutter in the saffron circle. She has trained guns on the party’s state leadership even as her pick Suniti Mund lost the post of Mayor for the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC). Many people in the BJP here believe that the party could have won the BMC Mayor’s post had it fielded someone from among the leading leaders in the capital city. However, Aparajita, as the local MP, chose Ms.Mund leading to the failure in the mayoral race.
However, Aparajita has another view on the defeat of Ms.Mund. She, as a novice in politics, secured over 1.13 lakh popular votes and 10 party corporator candidates won with the blessings of the voters. Aparajita’s claim was clear that the candidate selected by her could manage to get 1.13 lakh votes, giving little credit to the BJP’s support base in the State capital.
What has actually created the ripple in the saffron circle is Aparajita’s statement in which she claimed, “The party has performed miserably in the polls and I accept the defeat. The need of the hour is to strengthen our State leadership. If the State leadership is not strengthened, the same will not be reflected at the grassroots level.”
Though she blamed the ruling BJD for using money and muscle power to win the mandate of the people even after staying in power for more than two decades, her target was the state leadership which she described as “not strong”.
The political analysts, however, conclude that what Aparajita said might be correct, but her real target was BJP state president Samir Mohanty, a Dharmendra Pradhan choice. In a way, Aparajita gave a clear message that her selection failed due to Dharmendra’s “pick”.
Aparajita’s statement has not gone down well in the party rank and file which is mostly dominated by Dharmendra’s supporters. A delegation of state BJP including some MLAs led by Samir Mohanty took the matter to Delhi durbar and met BJP president J P Nadda. Though the Delhi-bound team remains tight-lipped, the move is loud and clear. There could be a complaint against Aparajita that the Bhubaneswar MP was not following the state leadership.
Though many insiders of BJP support Aparajita’s statement, they do not appreciate the Bhubaneswar MP exposing the weakness of the state leadership in public by giving bytes to television channels. This matter could have been discussed in the party forum instead of being debated in public. All the developments in the aftermath of rural and urban polls are now under consideration of the party’s national leadership.
While a section of saffron leaders wants some restriction to be imposed on Aparajita, the Bhubaneswar MP has silenced all in the party by strongly raising Shree Jagannath Temple issue and the Srimandir Parikrama Corridor project topic in the Lok Sabha. Her stand on the temple issue has gained support from many BJP MPs from outside the state as she raised an issue close to Hindu sentiments.
Aparajita taking the Shree Jagannath Temple issue to the center stage has unnerved BJD leadership as it is likely to snowball into a major controversy. However Aparajita, who has connect with ground has drawn big mileage on the issue.
BJP state leadership also met Union Ministers – Dharmendra Pradhan and Ashiwini Vaishnaw, during its visit and discussed the issues related to the party’s debacle in the twin polls. “There is nothing wrong in the state leaders meeting the national president of the party. We have been reviewing the ground realities behind the failure,” said BJP state spokesperson Suratha Biswal.
However, former MLA Pradip Purohit dismissed the allegation that the state leadership is weak. “The state leadership is strong, but we need to have a special strategy while fighting against BJD,” Purohit said, adding that state leaders’ meeting with Delhi people is not based on any one’s statement, but a natural practice in the BJP.
The BJP which secured 297 Zilla Parishad seats in 2017 panchayat polls, ended up with just 42 seats followed by 37 seats by Congress. Though BJP could secure less seats, it got 63,23,746 votes while BJD polled 1,10,89,712 votes and Congress 28,54,398. The BJP this time lost around two per cent votes and became the choice of 30 percent of people. Similar is the situation in the ULB polls.
This is high time that both the central and state leadership of the saffron party must sit together and give a clear message to the people that BJP genuinely wants to fight against the BJD. The people across the state have doubts whether the fight between the two major parties is real or just an eyewash. This is because the BJD used to support the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre and even sent a BJP candidate to Rajya Sabha.
Apart from mending the difference among the leaders in the state party, the BJP must make people believe that the saffron brigade is really opposed to Naveen Patnaik’s party. The people in general have a common opinion that the BJD and BJP fight against each other only during elections and later help each other in crisis.
However, keeping in view the ensuing Presidential elections, it may be very difficult for BJP to make people of Odisha understand that the Narendra Modi government does not depend on Naveen Patnaik and his party.