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Will Jay Get Signal?

Bhubaneswar: When veteran saffron lawmaker Jaynarayan Mishra was named as the Leader of Opposition in the Odisha Legislative Assembly, the firebrand leader announced that he would work in the line of BJP’s policies of “Congress Mukt Bharat” and “BJD Mukt Odisha”. This speaks of Mr.Mishra’s determination as a Leader of Opposition and commitment towards his responsibilities. He said this keeping in view the inability of the BJD government to meet the aspirations of the people.

However, considering the prevailing political situation in the state, will Mr.Mishra be able to fulfill such an ambition? Will he be able to make Odisha “BJD Mukt”, which has been in the saddle for five terms without break?

No doubt, Mr.Mishra is a good organizer and popular among the people in Western Odisha. But, can he topple the popular BJD, which has over 1 crore members across the state? Ever since BJD Supremo Naveen Patnaik came to power, his party regularly wins 100-plus seats in the state. The situation was, however, different from 2000 to 2009 when there was a coalition government in the state. After the break of electoral alliance, BJD continued to get more and more seats. BJP has not been able to win a by-poll and BJD has been able to win all the four by-elections held after the 2019 general elections.

The BJD candidates won the seats in Bijepur, Balasore, Jagatsinghpur and Pipili assembly segments. Importantly, the BJP failed to retain its seat in Balasore despite all efforts. Though BJP was elected as the main opposition party after the 2019 elections, it has not been able to function as a real opposition. The saffron party has also depended on the support of BJD on many occasions including one in the election of Ashwini Vaishnaw as a Rajya Sabha member.

This apart, the central BJP leadership has been dependent on the BJD in passing of bills and other major initiatives and even election of Presidents and Vice-Presidents. A general impression in the state is that the BJD and BJP work hand in hand and BJD is extending support for NDA Government keeping in view the interest of the state.

The central BJP’s dependence on Naveen Patnaik has further cemented the impression that both the parties are not different from each other in spite of no formal alliance. While the state BJP leadership targets Naveen and his party, the saffron party’s central leadership maintains a cordial relationship with the regional party leader.

Mostly due to BJP’s lack of base in the ground level, the BJD has been taking electoral benefits. The BJP has experienced it in the recently concluded rural and urban polls when the BJD won in about 90 per cent of Zilla Parishad seats. The rural urban poll results indicated that the people are with the BJD and not with the BJP or the Congress, which is struggling to maintain its existence in the state. In the absence of Congress, it is natural that the BJP gets some benefits. But, that is not sufficient to make Odisha “BJD Mukt”.

Though it sounds very good to speak of “BJD Mukt”, Mr.Mishra should look at the ground level and also the saffron party’s top brass’ cordial relationship with Naveen. Although the new Leader of Opposition is known as a “die hard” Sangh member and is considered as a “hardliner” in the BJP, will he be allowed by the party’s central and state leadership to damage the electoral prospect of BJD forgetting the instances of its support?

BJD which was seen hitting the streets as there was a 50 paise increase in the price of petrol and LPG during the UPA government prior to 2014. The same BJD is now silent; and its leaders, including Sanjay Dasburma, are no longer seen on streets. This clearly indicated that the BJD also does not want to annoy the BJP even as both the parties fight elections separately.

Mr.Mishra should first get clearance from the party’s top brass before making any such statement. If at all, the BJP leadership allows Mishra to work as a real opposition leader, will it be possible for him to take on the mighty BJD?   

The role and responsibilities of the main opposition party is to ask the government of the day to explain its actions, debating bills and proposed laws in the legislature, working on committees that examine bills and important state issues. The opposition is also supposed to provide alternatives to government policies. Is it happening in the state?

There is no dearth of issues to take on the BJD government in Odisha. The opposition parties have utterly failed to put the government on the dock. However, the situation was comparatively better when JB Patnaik was the Leader of Opposition from 2004 to 2009. During Mr.Patnaik’s tenure, at least four ministers and a Speaker had to resign from their posts on different issues. In 2009, then Congress leader Bhupinder Singh became the Leader of Opposition and he interestingly joined the ruling party in the subsequent election.    

The number of opposition members in the Odisha Legislative Assembly is only 31 in the 147-member House. The ruling BJD has at least 112 members in the Assembly. Therefore, in terms of numbers, the government can easily ensure passing of any bill in the House even in absence of opposition members.  

Presently, the opposition party, the BJP, has not been able to prove itself as a real opposition in the Assembly. No doubt, Jaynarayan Mishra is a different leader and he has the ability to take on the Treasury Bench in the House and the State Government on the outside. But, many people do believe that Mr.Mishra will not be given free hand to perform on merit keeping in view of Naveen’s cordial relationship with BJP top brass including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Time will tell whether Mr.Mishra can win the race against the tide and provide a “Real Opposition”, which is missing in the state. Will he get the signal to go ahead on his mission from Top Saffron Leadership for a BJD ‘Mukt’ Odisha?