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No Naming; Only Criticism

Bhubaneswar: 29 September, 2022 could be a memorable day for the politicians in Odisha as both the ruling BJD and Opposition BJP held separate congregations. There were many similarities and differences in both the events as well. The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which was all along considered as a friendly opposition attempted to give a message to the people that they meant business and were really interested to fight against Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

BJP National President Jagat Prakash Nadda addressed the party leaders twice urging them to take the party’s message to the nook and corner of the state. Though initially it was announced that Nadda would address a gathering of about 25,000 panchayat level leaders on 29 September, the party suddenly changed its programme. Nadda addressed another meeting, second time to its seven front organization leaders. The change in the BJP’s program is seen as its attempt to counter the BJD which also held meetings of its frontal organizations.

While the entire state was waiting to listen to Nadda, he on the first day was comparatively polite, but made a U-turn on the second day. He called for a “BJD Mukt” Odisha on the second occasion catching the BJD and its strategy makers unawares. The BJP President, during his two-day visit, has given a clear message that the saffron brigade would fight against its former ally ahead of the 2024 elections for the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly.

However, Mr.Nadda, in his speeches never took the name of Naveen Patnaik though he targeted the BJD Government and held his dispensation responsible for all the odds in Odisha. At the same time, Nadda was also cautious in using his words while raising corruption issues and avoided to denounce the mining irregularities which the BJP has often reviled in the Assembly. BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi also raised the issue recently. Nadda refraining reference to Mining irregularities, obviously gave a different signal to the state. He did not mention names of Ministers who were allegedly accused in murder cases.

Nevertheless, there should be no doubt that the BJP has changed its strategy. Strong words like “Ukhad ke phenk do”, “BJD Mukt Odisha”, “Duplicate Government” and “Thappa” in central schemes were used by Mr.Nadda, but not a single word against Naveen Patnaik. It was “No Naming, Only Sham Criticism”, pointed out a veteran political observer.

Everybody including JP Nadda is aware that Naveen Patnaik is the USP of BJD and he is the lone source of energy for the highly successful regional party. BJP leaders also know that the BJD will continue to remain in power as long as Naveen Patnaik’s image remains pristine. As an opposition, particularly since 2009, the BJP has failed to make a scratch on Naveen’s image which is considered as the “political inefficiency” of the saffron party. In a nutshell, both the opposition parties like BJP and Congress, came to nothing by directly hitting Naveen Patnaik.

While the BJP’s 2-day event at Janata Maidan was all hot and noisy, there was calmness and tranquility in the BJD camp at Baramunda Ground. The party leaders were categorically instructed not to open mouth against the BJP and the Central Government even as Nadda and BJP leaders lashed on the regional party.

Take the instance of Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain who openly said that he has been instructed not to speak against the centre. Rajya Sabha MP Sasmit Patra and Sanjay Dasburma raised the issue of central negligence even as BJD Vice-President and Minister Pramila Mallick was vitriolic at some point of time.   

Odisha politics has also witnessed how BJD hit the streets over fuel and LPG price rise and agitated over centre’s negligence during the UPA regime. Its silence now shows BJD’s support for Narendra Modi government at the Centre. If the BJD chose not to raise the core issues like price rise, unemployment and central negligence, what is left for it to vilify the BJP with? Interestingly, Naveen has also stopped attributing the “communal” tag to BJP for many years ever since Modi’s landslide victory in the country.

The BJD insiders are in a fix as to what is left to speak against the BJP and the central government? Can only the state government’s achievements be sufficient for the BJD to win polls? The BJP on the other hand shouts at the top of its voice on issues like corruption, lawlessness, ministers’ involvement in murder cases, rise in crime against women and many others.

The BJD senior leaders now seriously consider that the regional party chief needs to think of a new strategy before the elections. If the BJD leaders raise the core issues like price rise and central negligence during the election time, it may give a different message and people may think what forced the BJD not to raise the issue as and when it was relevant. “Raising issues against BJP only during the election campaign may not be accepted by the people as the regional party continued to remain silent all along,” pointed out a senior leader.

The political analysts opine that the parties clamour over issues continuously and finally blow them up during the election campaign. But, in the case of BJD, the general impression is that the regional party does not care for the suffering and plight when it matters and only takes shelter under them in election campaigns.

It is, however, a fact that BJD has a well-oiled election machinery with money, media and men at the grass root level. This apart, the regional party goes to elections while in power. Still, the party’s stand must be clear ahead of elections. Keeping in view the past activities like sending a BJP candidate to Rajya Sabha, supporting all the bills and initiatives of the Modi government, a general impression was created across the state that Naveen was no longer maintaining “equal distance” to both the BJP and Congress, but was right leaning.

This doubt among the people should be cleared ahead of the polls, feel BJD insiders. And if anyone may clear the doubt in the minds of voters about Naveen’s true intentions, it is none other than Naveen himself.