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Internal Fight Hits BJP

Bhubaneswar: In the immediate aftermath of BJD’s sweeping yet another poll, i.e. the Rural and Urban Local Bodies elections, one thing about the party supremo has come out loud and clear: Naveen Patnaik always ensures that political opponents both inside the party and in opposition are finished at the earliest. And he has done it successfully leading to BJD’s consecutive five victories in the state.

Incidentally, Congress which remained in power in Odisha for several decades before losing its principal opposition status post 2019 general elections for Lok Sabha and State Assembly, has been losing its vote share since 2000 and its ratio falling with every election. The Congress vote share in 2000 was 35 per cent and in the 2019 Assembly polls it came down to 16.12 per cent votes. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Congress secured 13.81 per cent of the votes against 26.38 per cent in 2014.

In the recent rural and urban polls, the Congress vote share has further declined to about 12 per cent thus virtually eliminating the old party from the political scenario of the state. Now, the Congress is no more a threat to Naveen’s BJD,

The infighting within the party was one of the factors for the fall of Congress in the state. The party leaders ensured that they pulled down each other before the party finally lost the confidence of the people and became a signboard party. Therefore, Naveen has reasons to be happy as Congress reduced itself without any efforts from the ruling party.

Now, the BJP has replaced the Congress as the state’s principal opposition party both in the Assembly and also outside. Though the saffron party’s vote share has declined to 30 per cent from 32 per cent, Naveen appears not satisfied. The BJD supremo is optimistic that the BJP will face the same fate as that of Congress, since the infighting within the BJP came to the fore during the recent polls.

It is now evident that Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is considered as the face of the BJP and he has a pan-Odisha network while some other senior leaders are not ready to accept it. The party now has senior leaders like Aparajita Sarangi, Suresh Pujari, Pratap Sarangi, Baijayant Panda, Jaynarayan Mishra and above all Bijay Mohapatra.

All the senior leaders are hesitant to endorse Dharmendra’s softness towards the BJD Government in Odisha. Some believe that the party cannot grow in the state unless it adopts the West Bengal approach. Many of them feel that the BJP should rise to the occasion and give an impression to the people that they are the real opposition and there is no shadow boxing between the BJD and the BJP. They are restless for real political fights.

The BJP which won 297 Zilla Parishad seats in 2017 panchayat elections, ended up with just 42 seats in 2022. Similarly, the party also performed miserably in the urban polls thus indicating that the BJP’s acceptability to the people has declined in comparison to the 2019 elections.

Political observers feel that people at large are under the impression that the BJP and BJD are friends and oppose each other only during the elections. This apart, neither the BJP nor the Congress have been able to take up any issue directly against the BJD President. Therefore, many BJP leaders believe that only beating around the bush will not install a saffron government in the state.

Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi was the first to blame the BJP’s state leadership following the saffron party’s debacle. Aparajita’s attack was directly against Samir Mohanty, the state BJP president. Mohanty, in fact, operates on the line of Mr.Pradhan’s dictum and therefore, identified with one group while others prefer to remain sidelined and do not put their best efforts for the party during the elections. Though Aparajita expressed her views in public, others preferred to remain silent and did not oppose her statement which indicated that they tacitly support her. It is said that “Moune Sammati Lakshnam” meaning ‘silence indicates support’. Neither Baijayant Panda, nor Pratap Sarangi or others spoke on the issue.

However, it was Bijay Mohapatra, who was sidelined in the party for a long time, said the dismal performance of the party in the panchayat elections was expected. However, Samir Mohanty was out to reject Mohapatra’s statement and said the party still holds 30 per cent of the vote share and therefore, not rejected by the people.

Though Mr.Mohanty did not publicly oppose Aparajita’s statement, he led a delegation of lawmakers to Delhi and apprised everything to the BJP National President JP Nadda. The BJP delegation, however, did not reveal the subject of discussion they had with Nadda. But the message was clear which is evident from Aparajita’s next move. The Bhubaneswar MP immediately sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and met him for apprising the situation in the state. Aparajita, called it a courtesy call. And there is no secret on Aparajita’s move because her timing was just immediately after Mohanty’s meeting with Nadda.   

Aparajita, who resigned from the elite All India Civil Service, had joined the BJP with the blessings of PM Modi and it is obvious for her to draw the PM’s attention when she faced problems within the party in Odisha. As such she was not made a Minister in the Modi government even as her batch mate Ashiwini Vaishnaw got the economic portfolios like Railways, IT and Communications. She is of strong view that the BJP can replace Naveen from the government for which well-planned strategy along with proper coordination of all the senior leaders are most essential. What Aparajita feels may be genuine, but keeping in view the prevailing political situation, Modi can hardly annoy Naveen!

The weakening of BJP in Odisha has made Naveen internally happy and he has to do less efforts to win the next polls in 2024. He knows that a faction-ridden party cannot win elections, which has happened in the case of his legendary father Biju Patnaik, who lost the elections in 1995 despite remaining at the height of popularity.