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Parties On Their Toes

Bhubaneswar: When Saffron veteran Manmohan Samal indicated about an ‘early poll’ event, while there are nearly two years to 2024 polls, political observers in Odisha took it with a pinch of salt. However it seems the political parties are not taking any chances for an early war. After all, there’s nothing wrong in getting ready now.

Odisha’s major political parties like the Governing BJD and Opposition BJP and Congress are busy in making their strategies as the Odisha Legislative Assembly polls are to be held along with the general elections.

Governing BJD always remains on its toes as its Supremo does not allow any space for opposition in the State. BJD has always held that simultaneous polls will give rich dividends to the party. The most important factor that helps Naveen’s party is that the national parties keep themselves busy in other states for the Lok Sabha polls and the BJD benefits from their absence.

Anyway, the first indication towards early polls was given by Manmohan Samal during the recent visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Mr.Shah also asked the party leaders to get prepared for the early polls in 2023 instead of 2024. Neither the BJP, nor any other political parties have so far denied the possibility of holding the general elections in 2023.  It is a different factor that Mr.Samal’s statement will activate the saffron brigade, but it provided a cue to the rival party like BJD. BJD Vice President Debi Prasad Mishra said the ruling party is all along prepared for the elections at any point of time.

Preparation of the BJP in Odisha also points towards an early poll. The party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already started working in that direction. BJP brought a hard core and a strong critic of Naveen Patnaik to the helm by appointing Jaynarayan Mishra as the new Leader of Opposition in the Assembly. Mr.Mishra from the ‘Day One’ of his appointment has declared that the BJP’s aim was to make Odisha “BJD Mukta” and India “Congress Mukta” .

Mr.Mishra’s statement gives a strong message that the opposition BJP, which is often thought to be hand in gloves with the Naveen’s party, would spare no opportunity to fight the BJD. A leader of non-compromising nature, Mr.Mishra has the ability to emerge as the real opposition leader for which the coming days are likely to be full of tussles between the BJP and the BJP.

This apart, the BJP also changed its Odisha in-charge D Purandeswari and appointed Sunil Bansal. Though a suave politician, Mr.Bansal has proved his ability in the Uttar Pradesh elections which was last time very crucial for the BJP in the backdrop of a massive farmers’ agitation in the country. Bansal has the ability to get things done through dialogues in a quiet manner instead of jumping into the battlefield.

BJP, in fact, needed this kind of a leader to deal with Naveen’s BJD, which is also a dependable opposition party. As BJD has all along bailed out the BJP led Union Government at the Centre, the top saffron leadership picked up Mr.Bansal who fits into the scheme of things in Odisha. BJP wants to form a government in the state and at the same time not annoy Naveen at any cost. This act of balancing could only be performed by Bansal.

After Mr.Shah’s visit and several Union Ministers making rounds of Odisha, the BJP looks determined to cover the state more regularly. A lot depends on to what extent the BJP has set its booths strong. Unless there is a strong booth, the BJP cannot win polls.

Getting the whiff of early elections, the BJD also has started its preparation. The party does not want to take any chance as Naveen will seek elections for the sixth straight time. Becoming the Chief Minister of a state for half-a-dozen of time is not a small achievement.

The BJD has already started reconstituting its frontal organizations and appointing new office bearers, mostly young. Three months ago Naveen went for a reshuffle. The regional party is also planning a mega meeting of chief minister Naveen Patnaik with all the MLAs, minister’s, office bearers and others soon to ascertain the ability of individual leaders. This proposed meeting is considered as a platform for selection of candidates for all the 147 Assembly segments and Lok Sabha seats.

As BJP could win in eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019, the BJD this time aims at capturing more LS seats in the state in order to increase the party’s stake in the national politics. The BJD has to walk an extra mile to ensure that it gets a proper place in national politics. Under such a political situation when the opposition parties are working hard, the BJD has to do additional homework before the next elections.

Similarly, the Congress has also changed its PCC President in Odisha and appointed Sarat Pattnayak, a strong-man from western region of the state. The political strategists, however, feel that elevation of Sarat Pattnayak would impact the growth of BJP in the western region. While the BJD has a strong base in both the coastal region and the southern parts, the votes in western region are likely to be divided among the BJP and the Congress. In the fight between the BJP and Congress in western district, the BJD may gain by using proper strategy, political observers feel.

Sarat Pattnayak has also set a target of winning 90 seats in the State Assembly from the party’s existing number of only nine in the state assembly. He argued that earlier during JB Patnaik’s tenure, the party had done such a miracle in 1995 by adopting a proper strategy.

Former OPCC President Jaydev Jena has categorically said that the next election is the last chance for Congress to return to power after 23 years. If Congress wins, then it will rule for another 15 years and if it loses, even God cannot save the oldest party in Odisha, he said.

Anyway, all the political parties in Odisha are now gearing up for the next elections, even though none is so far sure whether the polls will be held as per schedule in 2024 or earlier in 2023.