Bhubaneswar: As the governing Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is yet to recover from the shock since 2017 rural polls in which the opposition BJP made inroads to the Odisha villages, the regional outfit has already started restructuring its organisation by appointing new observers, making women leadership more effective for 2022 rural polls. The efforts of the ruling party clearly indicated it was in no mood to leave any space for the BJP to motivate the people in villages in its favour.
However, the BJD’s rank and file appeared not encouraged as they are strictly disallowed to counter the BJP leaders even as the saffron brigade challenges them on the face. It seems the party bosses have issued clear-cut instructions to the rank and file not to open mouth against the BJP unless they are told.
Both the BJD and the BJP have started their preparation for the 2022 three-tier panchayat polls scheduled to be held in February. However, no one is sure whether the elections could be conducted in wake of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. If the situation allows, the government may go for the rural as well as the urban polls in 2022. The panchayat elections are considered as crucial for any political party, be it governing BJD or opposition BJP and the Congress.
The saffron party in the 2017 rural polls had increased its Zilla Parishad (ZP) seats by 10 times. The BJP candidates won 306 ZP seats in 2017 from just 30 seats in 2014. And the BJP has got maximum political benefits from the panchayat poll result which led the party to emerge as the state’s main opposition party by winning in 23 assembly segments. This is not all, the BJP candidates also won eight Lok Sabha seats. The BJP’s journey started from the 2017 panchayat polls. At the same time, another opposition Congress performed worse in the 2017 panchayat polls and subsequently in general elections for Assembly and Lok Sabha in 2019. The Congress which had won 126 ZP seats in 2014, could secure only 66 seats in 2017 rural polls.
This is not that Congress alone suffered in the 2017 panchayat polls. The ruling BJD also lost over 150 ZP seats. The saffron party got an opportunity to make inroads into rural Odisha. It is another factor that the BJD led by Naveen could manage the adverse impact of the panchayat polls because it got around two years time before the general elections to mend ways and rectify its mistakes.
Due to the importance of the rural and urban polls, Naveen has deployed senior leaders as observers of different districts. The ruling party also knows that its strength lies in the women voters and therefore, has engaged female leaders of different ranks to work freely. All the strategies are aimed to defuse the growth of BJP and the rural and urban polls are the right time to make its position strong.
Understanding the BJD’s strategies, the opposition BJP has also intensified its activities against the State Government. The BJP in its State Executive Meeting held recently, chalked out a three-month road map to ensure that its leaders, workers and supporters reach the people in each village. The BJP has planned a series of agitations in the month of July. While its workers across the state held demonstrations demanding lifting of paddy from mandis on July 1 and 2, the party too has plans to launch another stir for three days from July 7 against the state government’s “faulty” implementation of the housing scheme. The party has alleged that the houses for the poor are being distributed by the BJD government on political lines while the real beneficiaries suffer.
Even the BJP has launched a campaign to make people understand that the Narendra Modi Government is worried for the poor people of Odisha and works for the development of the state. The BJP leaders do not miss a single opportunity to attack the BJD and its leaders on any issue. When Naveen announced COVID-19 assistance for the landless farmers under KALIA scheme, the BJP was prompt enough to point out as to when and how the government identified the landless farmers. The saffron party also makes no fault in highlighting issues against certain leaders and ministers.
However, when the State BJP leaders hitting hard on the BJD Government, the regional party leaders are sceptical that the party’s efforts may be fully realised unless they remain on mute mode. Even though the price of petrol crossed Rs 100 a litre, the BJD leaders remained silent. Fuel price hike has led to rise in the price of all essential items and hitting the common man. But the BJD is yet to take up the cause despite the fact that the government increased the bus fare in wake of the fuel price hike. The price of cooking gas has also increased, but the BJD remained silent for reasons not known to most of the senior leaders of the party. It may be mentioned that the previous UPA government was ousted from power mostly on two factors like price hike of essential items and corruption.
A number of senior BJD leaders privately wonder why the regional party, pledged to fight for the people of Odisha, remained silent even as the price of a kilo of dal touched Rs 160 and a litre of edible oil Rs 150. The BJD is disarming itself by not taking up the fuel price issue, a senior leader said, adding that some days ago Sanjay Dasburma was told to issue a statement.
But, the issue of such importance which affects common man needs the party to hit the streets instead of just issuing a press note. It is a fact that anyone picked up by Naveen wins elections in Odisha, but the people do not accept words of any non-descript leader making entry in the backdoor, speaking to the media on sensitive issues.
Anyway, the ensuing rural and urban polls are very important for all the major parties, particularly for the BJD and the BJP. This is because the results of the rural and urban polls will decide the fate of parties in the 2024 general elections as it has happened in the 2019 elections.