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Message From Jatra

Bhubasneswar: Call it a coincidence or a well calculated move by the opposition BJP or an invisible ‘double engine’ working towards progress of Odisha. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union Minister and BJP’s face in Odisha, Dharmendra Pradhan, pulling the rope of Nandighosh chariot, raised many eyebrows on Ratha Jatra day in Puri.

Mr.Pradhan shared dais and pulled the chariot in Puri along with Mr.Patnaik while two other Union Ministers, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Bisheswar Tudu, appeared to have maintained social distance from the BJD President. While Mr.Pradhan was seen holding the Nandighosh rope between the Chief Minister and Odisha Governor Prof. Ganeshi Lal, a picture of Mr.Vaishnaw showed the Railway Minister near Lord Jagannath’s chariot all alone. Mr.Tudu was also not seen nearby.

Though Mr.Pradhan’s supporters describe the incident as a coincidence, others see it as a well calculated move by the opposition BJP. Just a few days ago in his Mann Ki Baat program Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said: “Be it Ahmadabad or Puri, Lord Jagannath gives us many deep human messages through this journey. Bhagwan Jagannath is the Lord of the world, but the poor and downtrodden have a special participation in his journey”.

Everybody and all researchers in the Shree Jagannath culture agree that Lord Jagannath is the symbol of unity where there is no place for any caste, creed, religion and gender. However, is Mr.Pradhan and Mr.Patnaik holding one rope part of Mr.Modi’s “many deep human messages”, asks a senior political analyst.

The political circle is now agog over the Patnaik-Pradhan collaboration in the Ratha Jatra. The two other Union Ministers maintaining distance are also being discussed. One school of political analysts argue that had this been the move of the BJP’s central leadership to appease Patnaik, two other ministers might also have become part of the chariot pulling.

The people who have seen Patnaik-Pradhan combine’s presence in Puri, however, recalled how the BJD government denied permission to the Union Minister to conduct the central government’s flagship Swachh Bharat program in a school in the state capital in the past.

However, the political observers have seen how the equation between Mr.Patnaik and Mr.Pradhan changed over the years. Mr.Pradhan has toned down his voice against Mr.Patnaik, though sometimes he criticized the ruling party. The BJD government which did not allow Mr.Pradhan to hold meetings here, now allowed the Union Minister to sit next to the Chief Minister at the Ratha Jatra event.  

Mr.Pradhan also became part of the release of “Utkal Prasanga”, the mouthpiece of the State Government.

In line with the central leadership of BJP like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and JP Nadda, Mr.Pradhan has also now realized that there is no point in rubbing Mr.Patnaik the wrong way

As subsequent elections have proved that Naveen Patnaik is the undisputed leader in Odisha, what’s the point in pointing fingers at him? He proved his unfailing support for the NDA Government time and again.

Though BJP leaders directly attacked Naveen Patnaik during the election campaigns of 2019, the BJD Supremo all along maintained decency and never used a word to personally hurt any leader of any party. Taking a cue from Mr.Patnaik’s mantra of not speaking ill of anyone, many in the central BJP leadership have mended their ways.

For remaining close to the BJP’s central leadership, Mr.Pradhan has now understood that it was better to stick with Mr.Patnaik even at the cost of the party’s interest in the state. The BJD President is the lone non-BJP and non-Congress politician, who has all along helped the Modi-led central government in Parliament. This apart, Mr.Patnaik has shown his broadness by supporting a member of the opposition camp in the Rajya Sabha elections. Therefore, it is better to consider Mr.Patnaik as a well-wisher of the BJP-led central government, even though his party is not a member of the NDA.

Mr.Pradhan, after his success in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, now dreams of more powerful positions in the central government and the BJP. Though he looks after the party in Odisha, it is politically correct to make one’s relationship strong with the people who count. And Naveen Patnaik is certainly a leader who matters for both Mr.Pradhan as well as the BJP. Mr.Pradhan might have realized that BJP has a future if it bonds with the BJD. The saffron party has become powerless since 2009 after Mr.Patnaik walked out of the alliance in the state. However, here is a big solace for the Odisha BJP as some of its leaders are given good positions in Mr.Modi’s Council of Ministers.    

Yet the Union Minister’s supporters argued that there was no reason for Mr.Pradhan to go for appeasement with Mr.Patnaik or the BJD. In the ensuing Presidential elections, the BJP can easily win the polls even without help from the BJD. Therefore, there is no immediate reason for which Mr.Pradhan should placate the BJD Supremo. Besides, they also argued that both Mr.Pradhan and Mr.Patnaik are working towards progress of the state. It is like the BJP’s “double engine” theory. Both of them pulling the same rope of the chariot are acceptable as they work towards a common goal of developing the state.

On the other hand, Mr.Pradhan’s proximity with Mr.Patnaik has irked a section of BJP leaders who want the BJP to function as a true opposition and not fall to the trap laid by the BJD. “Mr.Pradhan joining Mr.Patnaik in Ratha Jatra event will further encourage the Congress to loudly claim that both BJD and BJP are two side of one coin,” a BJP insider opined adding that this has given a wrong message to the party’s rank and file, particularly for the party workers who are facing wrath of the BJD in the grass root level.

What exactly happened between BJD and the BJP in Delhi Durbar might not be noticed, but the Puri event has given a message to the saffron rank and file. Mr.Pradhan pulling chariot with Mr.Patnaik has come as a picture of cementing the bond between both warring political parties.

Now the State BJP leaders who are exposing themselves and unnecessarily creating enmity with the BJD bandwagon in district and block level should get a lesson from Mr.Pradhan that there is no permanent friend or foe in politics.