Reported by Sandeep Sahu
Bhubaneswar, Feb 7:
The sweet taste of victory in the two civic bodies – the Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) and the Baripada Municipality – in the morning turned sour by evening for Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as news began to trickle in that IPL Chairman and Congress candidate Ranjib Biswal had trounced Padma Bibhushan Raghunath Mohapatra, the BJD backed ‘independent’ candidate for the fourth Rajya Sabha ‘against the run of play’ as they say in cricket.
Till late in the afternoon on Friday, everything was going according to the script written by the BJD boss. Two independent MLAs – Jitu Patnaik of Champua and Braja Kishore Pradhan – had suddenly found, barely two months before their five-year term was to end, that they were sick of their independent status and needed to come under the umbrella of Naveen’s leadership to get work done for their respective constituencies. Barely 24 hours before the election, BJP MLA from G Udaygiri Manoj Pradhan had mysteriously gone missing. Berhampur MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyau Pattnaik had managed to make it to the Assembly, tubes and all, for the voting despite his illness.
The BJP, after huffing and puffing till late on Friday afternoon, had ultimately decided that the Congress – and not Naveen and his BJD – was the bigger enemy for it and hence it needs to cast its lot with the man who has disdainfully and repeatedly spurned their overtures since their split on a wintry evening back in 2009. The move was the clearest possible indication that no fireworks should be expected when Narendra Modi, the party’s great hope, visits the state next Tuesday.
The sudden disappearance of G Udaygiri MLA Manoj Pradhan and the open rebellion by Bonai MLA Bhimsen Choudhury did not do anything to enhance the party’s image, already dented by the open airing of differences by its leading lights in the run up to the Rajya Sabha polls.
In a way, the BJP was perhaps the bigger loser in the Rajya Sabha than even Naveen. After all, Raghunath Mohapatra was not the ‘official’ BJD candidate. But in casting its lot with the BJD, the BJP gave ample proof that for all the tough talk by some of state leaders, led by president KV Singhdeo, the party would come running, with its tail firmly tucked between the legs, the moment Naveen calls out.
Had Mohapatra won the polls, the BJP could at least have expected to get a few crumbs from Naveen as a token of gratitude. But since the man who banked on ‘Lord Jagannath’ (and not on Lord Naveen ) has lost, it cannot even expect that now. On top of that, it has lost whatever little credibility it had about its anti-Naveen credentials.
As for the Congress, it is early days yet to see the victory of Ranjib Biswal as the beginning of the turn in the tide for the party. While the party can certainly take pride in the fact that it managed to ensure that all 27 of its MLAs, including the seriously ill Basudev Majhi, did come and vote for him despite all the talk of ‘horse trading’, it would be wrong on its part to see it as a revival of its fortunes in the state at large. After all, as an ace cricketer and present IPL Chairman, Ranjib’s appeal goes beyond that of his party.