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Slugfest Ahead in 2021

The battle lines are being drawn and the stage is getting ready for the big fight to unfold in Odisha’s political landscape as the New Year 2021 is approaching fast.

The three major political parties have already pulled up their socks and are ready to fight, particularly, the Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

When Naveen has been organizing his party by making appointments in different wings of the regional outfit, the opposition BJP and Congress too are engaged in restructuring their set-up. The BJP has appointed D Purandeswari as its party in-charge for Odisha while Congress has appointed A Chella Kumar for the party in Odisha.

While honeymoon between the two major parties has apparently ended as the year 2020 comes to an end it appears that there is no love left between the two, keeping in view the changing scenario due to the ensuing Urban Polls in 2021.

Congress, relegated to third position in the political race in the state, has also started preparing to give the fight to secure its position.

Overall, the year 2021 has a lot in store for the people of Odisha as the two major political rivals are sharpening their swords to go for the kill in the ensuing polls. This election holds significance in the state politics as it will be held prior to the rural polls in 2022 followed by the general elections for the State Assembly and Lok Sabha in 2024.

The urban poll outcome will indicate which party will rule the state in next five years from 2024. Keeping this in view, no party is ready to miss the opportunity as the BJP feels that time has come to utilize its full strength and give a shock to the BJD Government.

The urban polls are significant for BJP as its candidates in the previous 2019 general elections for both the Assembly and Lok Sabha had performed better and lost many seats by narrow margins.

The BJP led by Narendra Modi is no doubt gaining strength in Odisha at the cost of the age old Congress and becoming acceptable to the people. The BJD, which is in power for the last two decades, on the other hand, can hardly surrender the power to the saffron party, which is on a mission to capture Odisha.

The BJD Government, which has faced criticism of delaying the urban polls for two years, however, has chosen to go for the elections in urban zones after the regional party’s landslide victories in assembly segments in Balasore and Tirtol. Both Balasore and Tirtol are more or less urban pockets, which recently rejected the BJP and returned back to support Naveen’s party. Keeping this outcome in mind, the decision makers in BJD are optimistic that like all other polls, the regional party can defeat the BJP or Congress any day.

BJD has realized that the saffron brigade is no more the same as it was during the Vajpayee-Advani era. The Modi-Shah combination is different and now new leaders are emerging in the party to take on BJD.

BJD leaders feel that Naveen has made supreme sacrifice to protect NDA Government’s interest by BJD MPs supporting all the bills, policies and programs of the BJP led Government despite not being part of the NDA. The regional outfit, which had formed an alliance government with the BJP in Odisha from 2000 to 2009, appeared to be making friendship during the time of need.

Now, BJD leaders have understood that further bonhomie with BJP will certainly be fatal and therefore, it is better to take up issues dear to the State, which is in the best interest of the regional party. While BJP leaders in the state including Union Ministers have already started targeting Naveen, the BJD has also started throwing its salvo.

Though Naveen during the 2019 election campaign remained silent, all of a sudden, the BJD Supremo has been spitting fire at the national parties, obviously targeting the BJP. Be it regarding the farm bills, disaster management or women empowerment, Naveen has utilized all the party platforms to target the BJP.

First, he said that the national parties like BJP or the Congress cannot fulfill the aspirations of Odisha, which has its origins of being created on linguistic basis. Naveen said the national parties force their policies on Odisha and they have no specific plans for the development of the state. On the other hand, he kept on emphasizing that it was BJD alone that works for its sole agenda, namely, the development of the state, its culture, language, tradition and industries.

Naveen has also targeted the BJP and Congress in the women empowerment issue. This was evident from his BJD 24th Foundation Day speech when he alleged that the national parties always forgot their repeated promises to reserve 33 percent of seats for women after the polls.

The BJD on the other hand keeps fighting for the women empowerment and Naveen cited instances that his government reserved 50 per cent seats for women in urban and rural polls, and fielded 33 per cent women candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Under the changed circumstances in 2020, the stage is ready and the year 2021 would see the intense fight after May, when the West Bengal elections would be over.

The people of Odisha will witness a hectic political activity all through 2021 even though the general elections are three years away. Meanwhile towards the end of the 2020, both the BJP and Congress have already hit the streets over the Nayagarh girl child murder case and some other issues.

The year 2021 will witness the green brigade, the Biju Janata Dal activists, on the streets. Naveen has already brought the regional party’s favourite issues like demand for Special Category State Status, River Mahanadi Water Dispute, Women Empowerment, to the fore. 

BJD, in coming days will also highlight the fuel price hike, farmers’ issue, central negligence and many other matters hoping to keep the entire Odisha bound on one thread. So, 2021 holds the promise of a great slugfest sure to generate great heat in the political arena.