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Odisha Needs Another Regional Outfit

Bhubaneswar: When addressing the youth wing of the party in 2020, BJD Supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had spelt out the secret of his success in becoming Chief Minister of Odisha five times in a row and making him and his BJD invincible. However, none in the opposition could pick up a mantra from his speech to work on and defeat Naveen in Odisha politics. Thus, the unchallenged one grew taller by the day not only in Odisha but across the country.

What was the secret that was revealed by Naveen two years ago? It was clear that only regional parties have the potential to remain in power in the state, not any national party like BJP or the Congress. Though BJP emerged as the state’s principal opposition party after pushing the Congress to third place, the saffron party still continued to struggle to get absolute support from the people. The BJP in 2019 won 23 Assembly seats and 8 Lok Sabha seats, but lost one assembly seat (Balasore) in a by-election. This is not all; BJP further lost its ground in the recently concluded rural and urban polls. This is sufficient to say that BJP’s growth is limited and the party may never reach the position of forming a government if the present situation continues.

Though Congress ruled for many decades, Odisha is basically a different state and all along maintains a separate identity. Odisha is the first state in the country formed on the basis of language. Odia ethos has been influenced by theJagannath Culture, with no leaning towards any caste, creed or religion. This is not seen in any other state. In a nutshell, one can say that the attitude of Odia people is different in terms of politics. This attitude may have developed among the people of Odisha for remaining grossly neglected by many central governments headed by either the Congress or BJP. Therefore, the regional party like BJD headed by legendary leader Biju Patnaik’s younger son, has attracted the people of Odisha. It is another matter that BJD often openly supports the NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While giving hints to the opponents, Naveen had said that only a regional party will do justice to the aspirations of the youth of Odisha as he hit out at the BJP and the Congress for showing step-motherly attitude towards the state.

While revealing the mood of masses and 4.5 crore people of Odisha, Naveen said, “The state leaders of the national parties neither have the voice to insist on protecting the unique heritage of the state nor do they have the intent to do so in a hierarchical centralized national party structure.”

He claimed that only a regional party will preserve Odisha’s unique identity. “Otherwise, the mainstreaming national parties will make you a small drop in their vast ocean,” Naveen saidadding that the primary objective of the national parties was to win elections and muster power to form a government at the Centre.

The primary objective of the state leadership of a national party is to basically impress the national leadership so that they can get crucial posts or become ministers, he added. Naveen also took a dig at the BJP-led Centre’s move for the imposition of the Hindi language on other states.

This is not all, Naveen also pointed out that the Congress governments in the state were remote-controlled from Delhi. BJP governments in other states also follow the directions of the national leadership. Compare this with the trajectory of Odisha under a regional party. There was a stark and positive difference, claimed the Chief Minister.

Therefore, the Odia politicians should get a cue and form another regional party to take on Naveen’s BJD. Not only in Odisha, the regional parties are accepted by people in many states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and now in Punjab and Delhi. In Tamil Nadu, there are two regional parties like AIADMK and DMK who rule the state in turns. The national parties have no existence in the southern state.

Therefore, it is high time for the politicians of Odisha to think of another regional party to take on BJD, which has already ruled Odisha for 22 long years and is set to complete 24 years in power. Since the national parties appeared to have no future in the state, no one should wonder if Naveen’s regional BJD returns to power again for the sixth time after 2024 general elections.

Take for instance, the case of senior BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan and Aparajita Sarangi. These two leaders are accepted by the people of Odisha and their presence draws crowds in any part of the state. But, they can hardly get votes to form a government while working in a national party like BJP which has provoked the ire of people for the price rise of all essential items. People may vote for AparajitaSarangi and Dharmendra Pradhan as individuals, but not as BJP candidates. This is evident from the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation elections when BJP got above 1 lakh votes and mainly due to Aparajita’s charisma. The eight Lok Sabha seats that BJP won last time was mainly due to the patriotic sentiment in the aftermath of Ballakote attack. The same situation will not return again and again. The people may not accept the national parties in the 2024 elections.

If there is another regional political party, it can provide an alternative to BJD while trying to meet the aspirations of the people and to fight out BJD which has occupied power for more than two decades. Over the years it has been proved that national parties will not be able to win the hearts of the people of Odisha and Naveen’s regional outfit has endeared them wholeheartedly. In a democracy, a formidable opposition is needed which forces the ruling party to run the government in a democratic mode. Political pundits feel that it is ripe time for another regional outfit and in fact ace political strategist Prashant Kishor sees a lot of scope for such an initiative in Odisha, for which is scouting for in other states. Many political leaders also subscribe to Prashant’s idea that “Odisha needs another regional political party”.