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Perils Of Loyalty

Bhubaneswar: Do loyalty has any value in the present day politics or it’s a liability? The issue needs to be discussed in the Odisha’s political circle as a large number of politicians remaining loyal to a party have paid a heavy price. They were dropped like hot potatos and the party authorities picked up their arch opponents and decorated them with much needed ‘tickets’ for the ensuing elections for Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly.

This loyalist bashing syndrome is visible both in the Governing BJD and the Opposition BJP. While announcing names of candidates for the Lok Sabha and State Assembly, both the adopted one formula that rope in leaders from the other party and field them as candidates of their own. Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats, the Governing BJD headed by Naveen Patnaik has fielded 8 (38%) turncoats who resigned from other parties and joined the regional outfit ahead of the elections.

The turncoats who have been rewarded in BJD were: Bhrugu Baxipatra (Berhampur), Pradeep Majhi (Nabarangpur), Surendra Singh Bhoi (Bolangir), Parineeta Mishra (Bargarh), Dhanurjay Sidu (Keonjhar), Lekhasri Samantsinghar (Balasore), Anusman Mohanty (Kendrapara) and Manmath Routray (Bhubaneswar).

Similarly, the BJP also honoured the leaders like Pradeep Panigrahi (Berhampur), Malavika Singh Deo (Kalahandi) and Bhartruhari Mahtab (Cuttack).

The politicians belonging to BJD and BJP, who have been termed as turncoats were in fact all along remained loyal to their parent parties, but quit the party at the last moment after being denied tickets by the party leadership. However, the Congress leaders, who have changed their loyalty, in fact switched over to the other party as their own ship seems sinking. They just left the party to keep their political career afloat.

Take the instance of Lekhasri Samantsinghar and Bhrugu Baxipatra. The two former Vice-Presidents of BJP quit their party, joined the arch rival and also rewarded with party nomination. Both of them have worked for the saffron party for about two decades and fought for it on the streets. Even Lekhasri was seen staging demonstrations on streets for BJP. Finally, she was ignored by saffron leadership and she was forced to quit the party. Similar was the case of Bhrugu.

BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahatab was one of the founder members of the BJD and he did not harm the party leadership as allegedly done by Baijayant Panda. Shri Mahtab was ignored in the party and he quit the party before being denied a party ticket. He joined BJP. What was Shri Mahtab’s fault? He did not pull well with a particular section of the BJD which has been controlling the party. Pradeep Panigrahy and Malavika Singh Deo too have similar stories to tell.  

Now question is raised whether these turncoats were not loyal to their parent organizations? On what ground Shri Baxipatra was given a party nomination for Berhampur while BJD’s sitting MP Chandrasekhar Sahu was working hard for last five years. And he has been loyal to the BJD Supremo all along, feel insiders. For what reason, the BJD decided to replace him with his arch rival Bhrugu is not known. Similarly why BJD rewarded Lekhasri while Rabindra Jena was making all the ground works to contest the polls? For BJD Lekhasri was a ‘Big Prize’, so the reward.

There are several questions and no party is ready to give reply. The fact remains that there is little value of loyalty in the present day politics where the parties want to win elections at any cost. There was time when the people loyal to the party and leader were being nominated to contest elections. However, there has been lot of transformation in the political landscape in Odisha.

The BJD, which have been under constant fear whether the party can repeat its 2019 performance, fielded both Lekhasri and Baxipatra in Balasore and Berhampur respectively, with one aim—to break the BJP Vote Bank. The BJD leaders hope that the senior BJP leaders will bring saffron vote bank to the greener BJD. In both the places, the party sacrificed its old leaders just to divide BJP votes. The practice is to raise own strength by bringing certain chunks of the BJP votes. BJP also flowed the same game rule.

Time will tell whether this formula will be beneficial for both the BJD and the BJP. This is a new experiment in the Odisha politics and both the parties have applied it. BJD has gone one step ahead and fielded 8 turncoats as its nominee for the Lok Sabha polls.

Under the changed circumstances, the simple question arises whether one should remain loyal to the party and its leader. If the people loyal to the party are left in lurch, the next generation politicians will prefer to adopt a different policy. They may pretend to be loyal to a particular party and maintain secret relationship with the rival party. The 2024 elections results will give a clear message on how the politicians should behave and act in coming days. If loyal leaders are not given adequate place in the party, why should they remain dedicated to a particular party?

Loyalty is again defined in different manner, whether one should be loyal to the party or certain leader. If a politician is loyal to the party and not loyal to the leader, he may face trouble in future. On the other hand if one remain loyal to a leader and not to the party, which may create another issue. Therefore, loyalty should now be defined in clear terms, whether to remain loyal to party or certain leader.

If someone is loyal to the leader, the people opposing him (leader) within the party may also cause problem. Therefore, there are a lot of untold stories. There should be a long debate on the loyalty in politics and its changed character in the present day politics as disloyalty has become norms for political professionals.