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Saffron Needs A Commander

Bhubaneswar: Think of the scene of a battlefield where the soldiers are well prepared with logistics like weapons, vehicles and a good strategy to face the rivals. The soldiers have honed their fighting skills, but unfortunately, they do not know who will command them and whom to eliminate first before rushing forward. The soldiers are ace fighters and motivated, but they will eventually lose the battle for no fault of theirs. This situation looks quite familiar in Odisha politics.

Such a scenario characterises the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has been facing the mighty Biju Janata Dal (BJD) led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. In the absence of Congress, it is Saffron VS Green in Odisha Politics. The Saffron has however, got some success after a decade long fight against the Green and emerged as the principal opposition party in the state by replacing the century old party- the Congress.

Now, after BJP National President Jagat Prakash Nadda’s visit, the entire Saffron rank and file are ready to fight against the Green Brigade putting the previous losses behind them. The party has lost some of its fighters in Odisha’s political battle. The BJP leadership is not unaware of the difficulties of its foot soldiers, but preferred to let them fight their own battle without having a proper command.

Everybody in BJP expected that Nadda would project some leader for the state. Be it party’s Odisha face Dharmendra Pradhan or Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi or Western Odisha’s strong man Jaynarayan Mishra.  No doubt, Nadda has infused the fighting mind-set in the BJP rank and file, but surprisingly, he did not name any leader to lead the team.

The situation has become like something where all are free to engage in a fight against the rival leaders, individually but not under one umbrella. The actual saffron fighters are utterly confused over the party central leadership strategy.

Nadda in his speech said that BJP was the national party with regional aspirations. There is no doubt that BJP is a national party as it has formed governments at the Centre and in several states. But, what about the second part of his statement “Regional Aspiration”? The BJP President has not spelled out any regional politician under whose leadership the party will face the mighty BJD, a regional party. The BJP also fights elections in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Odisha. Earlier, the saffron brigade used to seek votes in the name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The present day Amit Shah is doing the job of LK Advani like previous years.

Unfortunately, the State BJP has failed to get a regional leader though the party claims to be having regional aspiration. How do people and the common voters believe that Modi or Shah could have regional aspirations as they come from Gujarat? The basic character and mindset of the local people should also be taken into consideration before the party makes efforts to oust BJD, which has been deeply rooted across the state having a membership base of one crore and a formidable leader like Naveen Patnaik.

The supporters of Dharmendra Pradhan were left utterly frustrated when the National President did not name their leader as the Commander-In-Chief of the Odisha outfit. Pradhan, who is said to be enjoying the confidence of Modi-Shah combine, is yet to get the full freedom to control the BJP’s Odisha unit. There should be no doubt that Pradhan has reached a height where no other Odisha leader had arrived in the national politics. Sometimes, he is tipped to become the National President of the BJP. But, unfortunately, the BJP’s central leadership has also not named him as the leader to command over the party in the run up to the 2024 elections.

Pradhan has all the ingredients to take the command, but he lacks the ‘charisma’ of Naveen Patnaik. But Pradhan is accepted by a majority of the party’s rank and file for his strong RSS connection. However, during the last 10 years he has not been successful in making any remarkable penetration among the people.

However, BJP has no dearth of leaders though none of them match to the personality of Naveen Patnaik. Nadda’s meeting also exhibited wide acceptance of Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi among the party’s “Shakti Kendra” leaders. When Aparajita made a direct attack from the dais, there was a loud applause from the audience comprising party’s booth level leaders. The Bhubaneswar MP did not hesitate to directly target Naveen Patnaik while all her colleagues including Nadda blamed the BJD as a governing party and not its leader.

The bureaucrat-turned-politician Aparajita appeared to be a strong opponent to Naveen Patnaik. However, for not having a RSS background, the party preferred to keep her at bay. However she has the charisma and a pan Odisha acceptance.

Now that RSS has changed its attitude and allowed a woman to share the dais with Mohan Bhagwat at the RSS’s annual day function at Nagpur, Aparajita supporters have reasons to be happy as she may not face such opposition from the RSS if she is given leadership to lead the Saffron Brigade.

There is no doubt that Jaynarayan Mishra is a veteran saffron leader and has good hold in some districts of Western Odisha. His honesty and integrity inspires the Saffron Brigade.

The strategy makers of BJP must now realise that they are pitted against a very popular leader and the governing party having a strong base. Unless they make things easy for the party rank and file, it will be very difficult to form a government in Odisha.

Having 32 per cent of votes in Odisha is not a mean achievement. This indicates that there is a possibility of a victory. However, in order to reach the goal, one must undertake hard work intelligently. The party rank and file are all set to do hard work, but the leadership must make value addition to it by putting a well-planned strategy and projecting a leader to lead the lot. If the Modi-Shah duo gives approval to any leader, none in the state party will defy it. Therefore, it is high time for the BJP National Leadership to name a Commander to lead the Saffron Brigade in Odisha.