Ahead of polls, smaller par­ties pop up in odisha

BJP is look­ing to forge al­liance with the re­gional par­ties that may come up soon.


Party-hop­ping is a com­mon phe­nom­e­non dur­ing elections ev­ery­where in the coun­try. But in Odisha, for­ma­tion of new par­ties also be­comes equally com­mon ev­ery time a ma­jor elec­tion comes calling. A cou­ple of re­gional, per­son­al­ity-based out­fits are com­ing up this time around too as the state braces for si­mul­ta­ne­ous Assembly and par­lia­men­tary polls in an­other three months.

Union Min­is­ter Dhar­men­dra Prad­han had, some­time ago, hinted at cre­at­ing a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Congress in Odisha by unit­ing smaller par­ties ahead of the elections. Prad­han be­ing the chief min­is­te­rial face of BJP in the state and the fact that new lo­cal par­ties are go­ing to be floated in the com­ing days, have given rise to spec­u­la­tion that new po­lit­i­cal equa­tions are on the cards in the state.

Prad­han’s re­marks as­sume some rel­e­vance keep­ing in view the re­cent turn of events. After his ex­pul­sion from BJD, Damodar Rout had joined hands with Braja Kishore Tri­pa­thy, founder of re­gional out­fit “Sa­mata Kranti Dal”, and formed “Biju Sa­matakranti Dal” in Novem­ber. How­ever, the al­liance fiz­zled out within a month as the two lead­ers could not pull along to­gether.

Though his plan to launch a cam­paign against cor­rup­tion re­mains a non-starter with the re­cent de­vel­op­ment, Rout has ex­uded con­fi­dence that he would very soon form a new po­lit­i­cal party “which will be­come an al­ter­na­tive to the present rul­ing dis­pen­sa­tion.” Tri­pa­thy, who had tried to tie up with BJP dur­ing the last elections un­suc­cess­fully, how­ever, faces an un­cer­tain fu­ture as be­fore.

Spawn­ing of at least twothree more out­fits is also on the cards with vet­eran leader Bi­joy Mo­ha­p­a­tra inch­ing to­wards it, while hote­lier-politi­cian Dilip Ray is still beat­ing around the bush. Both the lead­ers had quit BJP to­gether last year. Though ru­mours were agog that Ray would join BJD soon, there is no sign of it as yet. No­body is sure about his fu­ture po­lit­i­cal plans, but sources say that he too is plan­ning to float a party of his own in­stead of join­ing oth­ers.

Mo­ha­p­a­tra, how­ever, is not new to run a re­gional party. After his ex­pul­sion from BJD in 2000, he had floated a re­gional out­fit “Odisha Gana Par­ishad” which had even won two seats in the state Assembly in 2004. He later pre­ferred to join BJP, but was never com­fort­able in the saf­fron party ow­ing to ego clashes with other lead­ers there. Asked when he is go­ing to form his own party, he said re­cently, “For (draw­ing) a po­lit­i­cal roadmap, only a week’s time is enough.”

The pos­si­bil­ity of an­other re­gional party com­ing up is also there with an­other vet­eran leader Bai­jayant “Jay” Panda yet to de­cide his next course of ac­tion even as a long time has elapsed since he quit BJD. It was strongly spec­u­lated then that he would join BJP or at least float an um­brella party com­pris­ing dis­grun­tled lead­ers of all ma­jor par­ties and have an al­liance with the saf­fron party ahead of elections, but strangely noth­ing of that sort has hap­pened so far.

Drop­ping enough hints about what is hap­pen­ing be­hind the scene, Panda re­cently said that the BJP is com­mit­ting the same mis­take that Congress once made in Odisha—by not go­ing hard against the rul­ing BJD. Pin­point­ing CM Patnaik’s “ploy” to “main­tain equidis­tance from both Congress and BJP”, he said, “One of Naveen Patnaik’s great­est suc­cesses has been to con­vince both BJP and Congress to play them off against each other and not to re­ally take on the BJD be­cause the other national party would grow.”

Point­ing out how as­tutely Naveen played the two national par­ties against each other to hold on to power in the state, he added, “What has hap­pened is that the BJP has grown into be­ing the second largest party in Odisha and it has edged out the Congress. But there are some in­di­ca­tions now that the BJP is mak­ing the same mis­take in Odisha that the Congress made.”

Po­lit­i­cal pun­dits don’t dis­agree as a se­nior jour­nal­ist said, “No doubt BJD has sup­ported BJP many a time at the Cen­tre, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, at the hour of need and helped it wrig­gle out of tough sit­u­a­tions. But in some ways, BJP is com­pro­mis­ing its pri­or­i­ties. Its Mission 120+ has also gone off the track. Amidst all this chaos, Naveen Patnaik has been suc­cess­ful in cre­at­ing a win-win sit­u­a­tion for his own party.”

Re­cently, Te­lan­gana Chief Min­is­ter and TRS pres­i­dent K. Chan­drashekhar Rao, who is try­ing to forge a “Fed­eral Front” at the national level, vis­ited Patnaik in Bhubaneswar. What­ever tran­spired be­tween them, Patnaik later came out with a state­ment that his party is not go­ing to be a part of the “ma­ha­gath­band­han” (Congress-led grand al­liance of anti-bjp par­ties) for the time-be­ing. This is seen as a BJD tac­tic to keep BJP in good hu­mour so that Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi con­tin­ues to go soft on it.

Panda has dubbed it as “Sun Tzu’s Art of War”, the an­cient texts which taught that wars are won by con­vinc­ing the en­emy that they don’t stand a chance. “Patnaik has cre­ated an il­lu­sion that if ei­ther of BJP or Congress were to take ac­tion against or fight the BJD strongly, the other national party would gain,” he told an in­ter­viewer re­cently. His re­marks have in­di­cated that all is not go­ing well be­tween him and the BJP. How­ever, time has come for Panda now to take a de­ci­sive step be­fore he van­ishes into po­lit­i­cal obliv­ion.

A peek into the fate of small par­ties in the state in the past 40 years, how­ever, re­veals a sad saga of fail­ures. It shows that none of them has ever been suc­cess­ful and their im­pact has al­ways been petty neg­li­gi­ble at the hus­tings. Though the rul­ing BJD is also a re­gional, per­son­al­ity-based party, it can­not be counted among these par­ties be­cause it was not a small party even when it was formed in De­cem­ber 1997 soon after the demise of leg­endary leader Bi­jayanand alias “Biju” Patnaik.

BJD had started off with a bang as a huge con­glom­er­ation of ma­jor lead­ers who had come un­der one um­brella to fight years of Congress mis­rule in the state. Its leader Naveen Patnaik, who is the son of Biju Patnaik, be­came a Union min­is­ter in the then Va­j­payee gov­ern­ment within three months of its in­cep­tion. Naveen later be­came the Chief Min­is­ter of the state in 2000 and is still hold­ing the fort to be­come one of the long­est serv­ing CMS of the coun­try.

Speak­ing of the smaller par­ties, the big­gest mis­fire in the re­cent his­tory is “Aama Odisha” floated by in­dus­tri­al­ist-me­dia baron­politi­cian Soumya Ran­jan Patnaik ahead of 2014 elections. Po­lit­i­cal pun­dits had drawn a rosy picture for the party keep­ing Soumya’s multi-faceted per­son­al­ity in mind. But it could make lit­tle im­pact in the polls and Soumya him­self lost from Khan­da­pada Assembly seg­ment. Its poor performance forced him to dis­solve the party and later join the BJD.

An­other such party, which was formed with much gusto and en­thu­si­asm but failed to make a mark, is “Utkal Bharat”. Bureau­crat­turned-bjp MP Khar­bela Swain had floated the party in 2010 after sev­er­ing his ties with the saf­fron out­fit. Utkal Bharat had even joined hands with Aama Odisha in the last elec­tion and it was thought that Swain and Soumya to­gether would be able to pull off a good performance, but all in vein. While Saumya is a BJD Ra­jya Sabha mem­ber now, Swain is still in po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness.

It is to be seen in the com­ing days as to which leader is join­ing or float­ing what party and how Prad­han is go­ing about his per­mu­ta­tions and com­bi­na­tions to man­age the smaller par­ties and forge a win­ning for­mula for the party in the state. With the chances of Modi con­test­ing from Puri get­ting stronger, polls in Odisha are cer­tainly go­ing to be a cliff-hanger this time. Ra­jasthan Chief Min­is­ter Ashok Gehlot has coined an in­ter­est­ing term for the in­fight­ing within the Congress. Speak­ing to Vir Sanghvi in one of his first in­ter­views after tak­ing of­fice, he ad­mit­ted that the Congress had lost around 20 seats due to wrong ticket dis­tri­bu­tion. Only he called this “hu­man er­ror”. Not too dif­fi­cult to guess which spe­cific hu­man he holds re­spon­si­ble for this er­ror! The role of the Supreme Court is com­ing into promi­nence once again with some of its re­cent high pro­file hear­ings. But the SC has drawn its own bound­aries. Re­cently, the court re­fused to give an ur­gent hear­ing to a case that sought to de­fine the word “Hin­dutva”. As the Chief Jus­tice of India Ran­jan Go­goi stated, the court has its own pri­or­i­ties and will hear the mat­ter “when we have time”. The Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment has given high pri­or­ity to the Ardh Kumbh Mela tak­ing place this year. This has led the Opposition to re­mark that the BJP is do­ing this to re­as­sure its Hin­dutva vote bank, es­pe­cially since it couldn’t de­liver on the Ram Mandir. When asked about this, UP Cabi­net min­is­ter and gov­ern­ment spokesman, Sid­dharth Nath Singh sim­ply stated on Newsx: “Kumbh means Hin­dutva and Hin­dutva means de­vel­op­ment.” Make what you will out of this, but the Congress has coined an in­ter­est­ing re­but­tal claim­ing that for the BJP “de­vel­op­ment” may be the user word, but the pass­word is Hin­dutva. With the rise of re­gional forces, there is some spec­u­la­tion as to whether all the state based par­ties can get to­gether to form the next gov­ern­ment. Ac­cord­ing to BJP leader Sudhanshu Mit­tal, non BJP and non Congress par­ties have never man­aged to get 272 seats in the past. He said this on Newsx’s Round­table show. Hear­ing this, BJD’S Ka­likesh Singh Deo shot back, stat­ing, “Don’t be too sure about it in these elections.” And so the games for E 2019 have be­gun. It was Fali Na­ri­man who stated that “free­dom after speech is re­ally what free­dom is all about”. Our politi­cians should bear this in mind. At a book re­lease func­tion, a Cabi­net min­is­ter was re­cently asked by a mem­ber of the au­di­ence to com­ment on the at­mos­phere of in­tol­er­ance and in­tim­i­da­tion. The min­is­ter heard the long-winded ques­tion and then said sharply, “The fact that you can look me in the eye and ask this ques­tion it­self means that there is a lot of tol­er­ance in this gov­ern­ment. So sit down.” There you go!

Bai­jayant ‘Jay’ Panda

Damodar Rout

Bi­joy Mo­ha­p­a­tra

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