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Will Slogan Lead To Victory?

Bhubaneswar: Do slogans win elections? This may be a myth for the Opposition BJP which has recently given a call for making a “BJD-Mukt” (Free of BJD) Odisha. Man Mohan Samal, BJP President in the State Executive meeting on Saturday gave a call for “BJD-Mukt” Odisha. Incidentally, BJD has been ruling the state since 2000 and getting stronger day by day, may be at the cost of Congress which has been losing its base on a daily basis. The BJP also gained strength from the loss of Congress. Now, a situation has arisen when BJP has been at the face off with BJD, the mighty regional party headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The Odisha origin party is stronger today after 23 years in the government. In initial days, the BJD had to take BJP along with it in order to counter the Congress. Now, the situation has changed and BJD used to secure more than two-third of seats in the Odisha Legislative Assembly.

BJP’s call ‘ ‘BJD-Mukt” Odisha sounds hollow because at any point of time since 2000, the regional party remained the elder brother having more grip over the state than the BJP. The saffron party has all along played the role of younger brother and not matched to the BJD’s popularity, election management and in all fronts. Dreaming of a “BJD-Mukt” Odisha is not bad, but the fact at the ground level says something. The BJD already has over One Crore members against the state’s total voter strength of 3.29 crore. BJP is in no way near to the BJD’s potential. This has all along been proved in half-a-dozen of by-polls held after the 2019 general elections. The BJD has by-elections in Bijepur, Balasore, Tirtol, Pipili, Brajrajnagar, Padampur and now in Jharsuguda while the BJP could retain its seat in Dhamnagar. Congress has lost its grip in all the by-polls even as the OPCC President Sarat Patnayak also coined a slogan” from 9 to 90”.

Sarat Patnaik means that the Congress will win in 90 Assembly seats in the 2024 elections and raise its present strength of only 9 MLAs. While the BJD has 114 MLAs, the BJP has 22 and Congress is satisfied with 9 MLAs. Despite losing in one and all elections, the Congress dreams to form a government in Odisha after the 2024 elections. Similar is the BJP’s dream of making Odisha “BJD-Mukt”.

Earlier, ahead of the 2014 general elections, the BJP had also coined a slogan “120 Mission”. This aimed that the saffron party would win 120 of the 147 assembly seats in Odisha. Incidentally, the party ended up with 10 seats and subsequently raised its strength to 23 in the 2019 elections. It is another factor that the BJP’s 2019 tally fell by one and reached 22 after the party lost in Balasore by-polls in 2020.

Why does a party fail and for what reason another wins? The basic factor for victory of a party in elections is organizational strength. While the BJD is deeply rooted in all the booths, the BJP’s slogan that “Mo Booth Sab Se Majboot” (My booth is strongest) also flattened in 2014 elections. While the saffron party leaders and workers were seen more in television screens and posters, there was none at the booth level. The biggest problem in BJP is that its workers in booth level do not want to remain as workers, but aspire to become leaders overnight. Therefore, at the end of the day, there is none at the booths while the BJD has organized its party in a cadre structure. Booth level leaders do their work in BJD for which the party wins. In BJD, the workers and leaders work within their jurisdiction while there are no such restrictions in the BJP. This may be because, even a “cha-walla” could become a Prime Minister. The BJP believes in that for which there is lack of discipline in the party’s rank and file resulting in big holes in the booth level. The BJD takes proper advantage from the BJP’s weak organizational structure.

It is another matter that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a “Congress-Mukt” India earlier and it became partially successful. This is because Congress was too weak in the country and BJP stronger. In the Odisha context, it seems vice-versa because the party which gives the call is weak while the targeted party is much stronger than it. A weak organization aspiring to make Odisha “BJD’Mukt” appears unrealistic as in case of “Mission 120.” The saffron party could secure 20 plus seats in assembly after giving “Mission 120” call and thus becoming a subject of criticism. In the present context nobody would be surprised if the party faced a similar fate. BJP’s double engine slogan also failed in the state several times.

In reference to history, Mahatma Gandhi had given a “Do or Die” slogan during the Quit India Movement in 1942 when the morale of the public at large was boosted to fight against British Rule. “Do or Die” was the mantra for the freedom struggle. Mahatma’s call was nothing to do with politics and it succeeded.

However, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had also given a landmark call like “Garibi Hato.” It was purely political and aimed at winning elections. The Congress was strong and the ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan caught the imagination of the people, particularly the poor and middle class. However, questions are now also raised whether Indira Gandhi could eradicate poverty from India.

Coining slogans is not new in India, but turning them into reality is a challenge which the BJP is now facing. The saffron party in Odisha, now headed by Manmohan Samal, a true organizational person, has been working hard to make it a reality. But the fact remains that he is yet to form his own team even after two months after assuming charge of the state. He is also facing difficulties due to certain influential faction within the party and thus unable to make a steady move, party insiders said adding that Shri Samal’s efforts may succeed to certain extent with help of Sunil Bansal’s roadmap, but it could hardly make Odisha “BJD-Mukt.” Keeping the prevailing situation none can make BJD Mukt as long as Naveen Patnaik remains at the helm of affairs. It is also a fact that there is a lot of factionalism within the BJD. But, so far Naveen is concerned; there is no challenge to his leadership. There is neither any leader in BJD or in Opposition who could challenge Naveen’s authority. Anyway, BJP has to wait for any major mistake by Naveen so that its “BJD Mukt” Odisha could be possible. Most importantly BJP has to present a Chief Minister Face and proper strategy to win election. As on date BJP lacks on both the counts. So under this backdrop slogan like BJD-Mukt Odisha will remain another slogan not a reality.