Home Editorial Saffron Odisha Needs A Yogi

Saffron Odisha Needs A Yogi

Bhubaneswar: The Modi magic has trumped again with the BJP capturing four states, namely Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur, while failing to make its existence felt in Punjab as Aravind Kejriwal’s APP snatched power from Congress there.

With this spectacular performance of BJP, questions have now been raised in Odisha politics whether it would have any impact on the March 24 Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls in the State. BJP State President Samir Mohanty is optimistic about it and claimed that the saffron party would certainly benefit from the success.

It sounds incredible that the BJP can spring a surprise in Odisha politics in 2022 ULB polls in the backdrop of the drubbing in the recent three-tier panchayat elections in the state. Not only BJP lost 255 Zilla Parishad seats in the panchayat polls, but it also registered a decline of about 2 per cent vote share in comparison to the 2017 panchayat polls. The BJP leaders have downplayed the loss of only 2 per cent in the vote share, claiming that its rural base was intact.

The 2022 panchayat elections have also exposed that the BJP’s effort to consolidate and strengthen itself at booth levels was half-baked. BJP’s “Mo Booth Majboot” slogan seems to have fallen flat in the 2022 elections.

Only time will tell whether the four state assembly election results will have an impact on Odisha’s urban polls, however, at least one thing is now clear that the four state results have come as a life giving “Sanjeevani” for the BJP’s rank and file across the state. It appears all is not over for them even after losing 255 ZP seats. “The BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh despite several hurdles is certainly a booster dose for the saffron leaders and workers to fight against the mighty BJD headed by Naveen Patnaik,” a senior BJP leader said.

It is not known whether the four state election results will also boost the BJP’s electoral prospect in the urban polls. But, one thing is now clear that Odisha’s BJP face and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s image has also received a boost. Mr.Pradhan’s name is now being discussed as the next BJP National President after he became instrumental in retaining BJP’s power in the most crucial state like UP. The Odisha man was the frontline soldier in UP and successfully implemented the strategies prepared by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah duo. Mr.Pradhan’s stature in the BJP at national level has been elevated and he has certainly emerged as the tallest leader among Odisha saffron politicians.

Another factor that goes in favour of Mr.Pradhan is that his absence in the election campaign during the panchayat election campaign in Odisha led to BJP’s humiliating defeat in the 2022 polls. Mr.Pradhan had extensively campaigned during the 2017 rural polls which had helped the saffron party to form Zilla Parishad in 8 districts. This time in 2022, the ruling BJD will form Zilla Parishads in all the 30 districts of Odisha. “Had Pradhan been at the helm, the BJP’s panchayat results would have been different,” one of his supporters claimed even as the national party’s candidates miserably failed in the Union Education Minister’s native place.

The UP election has certainly strengthened the stature, authority and power of Mr.Pradhan, who was BJP’s election in-charge for the north Indian state. There should be no doubt over it even as some senior leaders in the state party may not find it easy to digest the fact.  

Before making the claim that the UP election will have an impact on Odisha politics, one must remember that the saffron party had won 312 seats in 2017 assembly polls and yet had no impact on the Odisha assembly elections in 2019. The BJP could muster a paltry 23 assembly seats in 2019.      

This apart, one should also consider that the BJP was in power in UP, Goa and Uttarakhand some time or the other, but not in Odisha though it had an alliance government with BJD from 2000 to 2009. In all the states, BJP had a solid base at the grass root level, but not in Odisha. Instead, the party has failed to maintain its ground level votes in 2022 panchayat elections. Therefore, hoping for BJP’s success without having a solid base at the ground level may turn out to be a pipe dream.

Another factor that hits BJP is the absence of a leader to match the stature of Naveen Patnaik. UP has Yogi Adityanath, who during the last five years of rule, has earned the name of “Bulldozer Baba,” for containing crime in the state. Mr.Yogi has the fame of being a hardliner for criminals and anti-social elements. This is for the first time Mr.Yogi got more support from women than men as Naveen Patnaik used to do for the last two decades.

Political analysts opine that it will become easy for the BJP national leaders including Modi-Shah duo to prepare a proper strategy on the baseline already created by Mr.Yogi. Here in Odisha, the BJP does not have a leader even half the stature of Mr.Yogi. The Bulldozer Baba is the BJP’s indigenous arm which could be a formidable force to face in the political battlefield. Unfortunately, the saffron party leaders in Odisha do not have such dedication for the state and its people as Mr.Yogi has.

Gone are the days when elections were being won by waves in Odisha. When the entire country was swept away by the Modi wave both in 2017 and 2019, Odisha and West Bengal could withstand the saffron wave. However, both the states were partially affected in Lok Sabha elections. The BJP’s candidates won 8 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 elections though they failed to capture more seats in Assembly. Naveen wave still prevails in Odisha’s air and it appears braced up to counter Modi’s third wave. The BJD has successfully managed the Modi wave in 2014 and 2019. Therefore, Naveen Patnaik has all the potential to counter Modi’s third wave which is scheduled to hit Odisha in 2024. Then, nothing is permanent in politics.