Bhubaneswar : At the beginning of the New Year and ahead of the urban polls, Odisha is witnessing politics of acrimony, with the two main political parties, BJD and BJP at loggerheads. There is a jostle between the two political rivals for taking credit over different government programs and issues. BJP which was liberal like its predecessor, the Congress, appears to have changed its approach and is now determined not to leave an iota of credit to the regional outfit that has been governing the state for two decades.
Most importantly, BJP has also employed a strategy not to allow party people to become silent spectators to the hijacking of central schemes by the regional outfit as its own. BJP’s mood was evident when Naveen Patnaik on Saturday launched the Bindusagar tank rejuvenation project near Shree Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar. The meeting was attended by Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Bhubaneswar BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi and BJD minister Ashok Panda. As the Central PSU Indian Oil will be spending Rs 70 lakh for the project, the BJP wants to take full credit for the event. Though the Chief Minister inaugurated the project, BJP wanted to spread the message that this good work could not have been possible without the help of Pradhan.
Saturday’s meeting witnessed the activists of both the parties waving their respective flags. BJP activists appeared to have dominated the event as they feared that like in case of other schemes, ruling BJD would take credit of the project funded by Indian Oil.
BJD had already taken credit for the development of the temple of Shree Lingaraj, the presiding deity of the state capital. BJD had recently announced that a special legislation would be framed for Shree Lingaraj Temple in the line of Shree Jagannath Temple Act. The State Government has meanwhile issued an ordinance for the Lingaraj Temple. The BJP, in its bid to outweigh BJD, chose to undertake the Bindusagar project. Still a fear lingers that Naveen may take credit without the state spending a single rupee.
This is not the first instance when the activists of both the parties faced each other on the open. Earlier, the BJP workers and supporters had filed FIR against the State Government and the Chief Minister complaining that BJD was taking all credit for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
The State Government put stickers on the wall of the Awas Yojana beneficiaries with a big picture of Biju Patnaik after whom the ruling party is named. The government has cleverly shortened Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to PMAY while prominently displaying Biju Patnaik’s picture. However, due to strong protest by the BJP activists, the state government was forced to change the sticker.
It appeared that the BJP strategy makers have now decided to hit the ruling BJD where it hurts. The opposition party has apparently been working on a tactic to hit the BJD’s main positive points like transparency in government, women empowerment and effective law and order measures. As part of its strategy, the BJP has targeted the BJD Government on transparency and law order issues. The Mahanga double murder incident, in which one of the victims was a local BJP leader, which has emerged as a major weapon to fight the BJD administration.
Two BJP leaders – Bikas Jena (2018) and Kulamani Baral (2021) – were killed as they raised voice against the corruption in the rural housing scheme. The party also alleges that Law Minister Pratap Jena, who is also the Mahanga MLA, has been shielding the culprits in the Mahanga twin murder case.
That BJP is giving much importance to the double murder issue, became clear when the party’s Odisha in-charge D Purandeswari rushed to Nrutang village and met the family members of the victims. She was too critical of the state government and targeted Naveen Patnaik, who also holds the Home ministry. Though BJP was yet to demand the resignation of Naveen Patnaik, the saffron party harped on the arrest of the Law Minister.
Ms.Purendeswari, a seasoned and composed politician in the saffron outfit, politely attempted to expose Naveen by asking whether Kulamani Baral and Divyasingha Baral were not members of his 4.5 crore family, as the BJD supremo, used to claim about the population of the state during elections. This one liner from Naveen used to endear the people of Odisha since all knew about Naveen’s bachelorhood.
BJP strategists also feel that women, who constitute about 49 per cent of the state’s voters, are strong supporters of the regional outfit. Naveen himself has also publicly admitted that his party has been blessed five times successively to rule the state due to the support of female voters. Naveen, after assuming power in 2000, has been encouraging women by setting up self-help groups under Mission Shakti, which paid a rich dividend to the BJD in all elections. The opposition BJP now considers that unless the saffron party strategically gains support of the women, it may not be possible to come to power in Odisha.
The BJP leaders, beginning from the state to national levels, all have highlighted the kidnap and murder of a 5-year-old girl from Nayagarh. Apart from all the important leaders of the saffron party, D Puraneswari has visited Nayagarh twice. Her maiden visit to the state as the Odisha in-charge also witnessed her rushing to Nayagarh and supporting the deceased girl’s parents. The party has already made the Nayagarh incident a major issue which not only pointed fingers at the prevailing law and order situation, but also put question mark on the safety of girl children and women in the state. The opposition party thinks that the Nayagarh issue has helped the BJP in gaining the support of people at large and women in particular.
Anyway, the trend of clash for credit has started between the BJD and the BJP and it is likely to aggravate in coming days. On one hand BJP feels that the good works of the Narendra Modi Government do not reach the voters as the credit is hijacked by BJD, and on the other the saffron brigade hitting the streets to make people believe that BJP is doing a lot for the citizens and deserve better treatment than BJD.