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Saffron On Silent Move

Bhubaneswar: After remaining silent for a long time, Governing BJD President and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik all of a sudden on 8 March, the International Day for Women came down heavily on the BJP led Union Government. BJD Supremo directly attacking the National BJP left many political observers surprised as he and his party has all along targeted the Odisha unit of the saffron party while keeping a safe distance from Delhi Politics. BJD all along wanted to confine its attack on the Odisha BJP, till Naveen criticized the Union Government policies on raising the price of LPG and stoppage of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana under which 5 kg rice was stopped for the poor and needy families.

However, this is not the first time that the BJP led NDA Government raised the LPG price. From a price of Rs 400 in 2014, the centre has raised cooking gas tariff to Rs 1130. BJD all along remained silent and its leaders then did not care for the plight of women due to price rise. The BJD Supremo of late realized that women would be in trouble for the price rise. What could be the reason for BJD suddenly crying horse? In a nutshell, one can clearly conclude that BJD now wants to change its stand against BJP ahead of the 2024 general elections for Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly.

The BJD’s change of stand is also based on the reports that the BJP central leadership was in for a big game while its Odisha unit frequently attacked the Naveen Patnaik dispensation in the state. As the BJP central leadership focused on Odisha and its national leaders like JP Nadda, Amit Shah and Sunil Bansal engaged in making strategies silently to unseat Naveen Patnaik in 2024. So the BJD leadership has reasons to react and it’s Big Boss’s outburst against Centre was part of it.

Keeping an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, BJP President JP Nadda and party stalwart and Union Minister Amit Shah have already started their move in the state by undertaking Prabas Program. Shri Shah is visiting Coastal Zone- Bhadrak district and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to undertake a Odisha tour in May this year. BJP’s sole intention is to win more Lok Sabha seats in Odisha without making much noise. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP had captured 8 Lok Sabha seats, a performance much better than the previous 2014 elections.

The BJP central leadership, which apprehends that its number may decline in Hindi belt this time, would like to win more seats in east and north east while Odisha is a virgin ground for the saffron party. In the previous 2019 elections, the BJP candidates won in eight seats like Bargarh, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Bolangir, Bhubaneswar and Kalahandi. Other than Sundergarh, the saffron party added 7 other seats to its tally.

This is not all, the National BJP leadership also calculated that it has better prospects in the Puri Lok Sabha seat where its candidate Sambit Patra lost the polls by just 11,714 votes. This apart, the BJP also targeted a few more Lok Sabha seats like in tribal dominated seats like Keonjhar, Kandhamal and Koraput. The party, sources said, has formulated a specific strategy for each Lok Sabha seat for capturing them. “BJP would be happy if its Lok Sabha tally is doubled in Odisha,” a senior leader said.

Similarly, taking BJP’s previous Lok Sabha election performance into consideration, the saffron candidates had secured more votes than the BJD candidates in 52 assembly segments even as the party could win in only 23 Vidhan sabha seats. The BJP’s vote ratio was 38.4 % in 2019 against 21.9 % in 2014. The party gained around 16.9 % more votes in 2019. Similarly, the Governing BJD which secured 42.8 % votes in 2019, had suffered 1.3% less votes than 2014 elections. Therefore, the BJP sees a possibility in Odisha and the party has been preparing accordingly.             

As the opposition Congress has been weakened and losing its strength day by day; the BJP sees a bright future. The party’s vote share is already 38 per cent and it required addition of another four/five per cent mandate to capture more seats in the Lok Sabha and as many votes to capture power in the state. The party has meanwhile reviewed the cause of the BJP candidates failing to get more seats in assembly even as the people in the same constituency voted for Lok sabha candidates. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP candidates had received more votes than the BJD nominee in 52 Assembly segments while the party actually got only 23 seats. This indicated that the party which should get 52 seats got half of its potential. The BJP leadership considered that a proper strategy could get more seats in the assembly elections also.

This apart, the BJP also sees a better future as the rival BJD is likely to face rebel factors in 2024 elections because Naveen Pataik is likely to deny party tickets to about 50 per cent sitting MLAs. BJD is faced with dual problems. If the party continues with existing MLAs, they may lose due to bad names incurred by them in many places and if it changes, the party may face rebellion issues. Therefore, candidate selection for the BJD may be a tough job this time. The saffron party believes that a proper strategy could be utilized in favour of the BJP candidates.

Anyway, Odisha is now gradually picking up political heat as indicated by Naveen Patnaik. Though the BJP is in no hurry, it has been waiting for a favourable condition to strengthen its vote base. Naveen’s party would also leave no stone unturned to ensure Naveen becoming the chief minister again for the sixth consecutive time. However, nobody knows the upcoming political situation. One thing is at least clear that BJP is in no mood to further allow BJD to gain more seats in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections though the regional party performed very well in the  rural and urban polls in 2022.