Bhubaneswar: It appears Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Biju Janata Dal are unbeatable. Naveen’s victory march continues from 1997unaffected by anti-incumbency factor or wrongdoings of his party colleagues. Look at the ongoing panchayat elections. The trend of results which is available by noon of Saturday, indicated that the governing party is all set to capture about 80 percent of seats of the 315 Zilla Parishad (ZP) seats fought with party symbols. The indications for other such posts like ward members, sarpanches and samiti members, where party symbols are not used in elections, also gave positive signals for Naveen’s party.
Yet again the BJP and Congress are on the losing side. Congress is however, not affected as the party had won only 60 seats last time while BJP registered a remarkable growth by winning 297 ZP seats. It is another story whether the BJP can retain its earlier seats this time. If BJP spokesperson Dhiren Senapati is to be believed, the saffron party is struggling to retain its previous number leave alone replacing the BJD.
While BJD leaders and workers are overwhelmed by the trend, there is a pall of gloom in the saffron camp and many of them including party spokespersons have conceded that the villagers have rejected them. The state unit of BJP raised several issues like irregularities in the rural housing schemes, mismanagement in paddy procurement, heinous crimes allegedly supported by BJD leaders and many more. But, the election trend indicates that all such allegations have no impact on the people. Many are also surprised over the performance of the BJD and the rejection of BJP by the people. The saffron think tank is puzzled over Naveen’s popularity for which all sins of the party leaders and workers are washed away and the regional party comes victorious.
As usual, the opposition parties make allegations of money and muscle power of the ruling party. Congress MLA Suresh Routray, however, said that both the BJD and BJP used money and muscle power while Congress had nothing to attract or make people panic. Going by the logic of Routray, the BJP should also get a major share of the votes. But, that is not the case. If BJD gets votes by money and muscle power, the BJP also does not lack resources and the party rules at the Centre with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.
But, Naveen is all along fresh as his name suggests. He stands tallest among all the leaders and acts as a bulwark against the Modi-Shah juggernaut. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also proved her mettle. No such proof is required for Naveen as he is already in the hearts of millions of people in the state.
Interestingly the younger son of legendary leader Biju Patnaik has not come out of his residence to campaign for party candidates or even did not address the people through virtual mode. He, however, spoke to some senior party leaders in all districts over video conferencing and stressed to confine their campaign on the good works of his government. This, in fact, made miracles for the BJD which is all set to raise its previous tally in the rural polls.
Why did BJP suffer despite its all-out efforts? The saffron brigade has toiled a lot and worked day in and day out. Still it failed to catch the villagers’ imagination in the panchayat elections. Lack of proper coordination among the senior leaders of BJP could be one of the factors for the party’s dismal performance in the panchayat polls.
The BJP’s face Dharmendra Pradhan did not campaign in the panchayat elections as the Union Education Minister was busy in his prior engagement in the Uttar Pradesh elections. But what about the other leaders like Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, MP Aparajita Sarangi and others?
Just ahead of the panchayat elections, PM Modi had allocated a good amount of funds for the railway development in Odisha. But, this factor also could not impress people as it was not publicized well. Vaishnaw, who came down to address a press conference on the railway allocations, remained confined to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack while rural people were to participate in the panchayat elections.
Vaishnaw, Aparajita and for that matter Baijayant Panda also had limited roles to play while Pradhan was a no-show. It is another matter that Union Minister Bisheswar Tudu, Sundergargh MP Jual Oram and former Union Minister Pratap Sarangi extensively campaigned in the rural polls. But, they were no match to Naveen and they too failed to take advantage of Naveen’s absence in the campaigning.
What came as a major shock for the BJP leaders was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s praise for Naveen and the BJD Government in Odisha on the floor of the Parliament. This time the praise came for reforms in the mining and coal sector. The PM’s message in the Upper House of the Parliament was enough for BJD and Naveen Patnaik in the thick of the campaign.
The BJD leaders and workers carried Modi’s message to the people which was sufficient to demoralize the saffron rank and file working restlessly in the villages for the party. The people in general took it seriously and considered that Naveen had a very good rapport with Modi and Shah. Why else would Modi praise the Odisha Chief Minister during the rural poll campaign?
This could be one of the major factors for BJP’s downward trend in rural Odisha, but the fact remains that Naveen still enjoys unconditional support of the masses. When Modi himself praises Naveen, who others matter in the party? The trend of the one day’s vote counting has come to the fore, but the BJP has already conceded defeat. The results of three-tier panchayat elections may not be good for the BJP as an opposition party, but it will further strengthen the relationship between Modi and Naveen. Some people say it is a walkover for Naveen and his party in Odisha. The trend indicates a landslide victory for BJD and a performance below expectation for the BJP.