By Basudev Mohapatra*
Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has now become the preferred political destination for leaders of other parties. Hardly a day passes without somebody or the other joining BJD. By now, many senior leaders from different parties, over a dozen of them from Congress alone, have made BJD their new political home.
This trend raises many questions. Are the BJD and its president Naveen Patnaik fearful of losing the electoral battle in 2014? Is Naveen trying to prove himself better than his former lieutenant Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, who as the party’s election manager delivered a thumping majority in 2009 with 103 out of the 147 seats in the Assembly and 14 out of 21 MP seats in the Lok Sabha?
The fear of losing seats in the coming elections appears to be well founded. In the last five years, the Naveen Patnaik government has been blamed for its alleged role in several scams: the mining scam worth thousands of crores, the huge scam in allotment of land in the capital city and the chit-fund scam in which many ruling party MLAs and Ministers are allegedly involved.
Apart from the scams, Naveen Patnaik and his government have been severely criticised for lacking long term vision while pursuing its plan for industrialisation in the state. Resistance movements by people have come up in almost all project areas. Tribal communities have taken up the path of agitation alleging prolonged negligence. Discontent in the remote and tribal hinterland has created the necessary space for the leftwing extremist movement to creep in and grow.
The other is the Pyari fear in Naveen Niwas. The BJD’s success in 2009 election has been largely – and perhaps justifiably – attributed to Pyari Mohan Mohapatra. From breaking the coalition with the BJP to entering into seat sharing arrangements with the Left parties and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to successful management of election campaigning, it was Pyari Mohan Mohapatra who called the shots.
This time, Pyari is not the party. Instead, he is going to play the role of a spoilsport. It’s also believed that some Pyari loyalists are still in BJD who would play their game during the election.
On the other hand, the image of most BJD leaders, who won the last election, has been tarnished in the public because of different reasons. Many senior leaders have been charged with either patronisation of or involvement in criminal activities. Some have been suspected of being connected to cooperatives and no-banking financial companies involved in the huge chit-fund scam. Several leaders face charges of acquiring government land illegally by misusing their power. Opponents are bound to raise these issues during election and the party may have to face the brunt of it.
On the other hand, a performance worse than 2009 would mean lack of managerial ability in Naveen and members of the new coterie that has taken over after the removal of Pyari, which has already taken the blame for poor electoral management during the last Rajya Sabha poll where the party supported candidate had to face defeat against the Congress candidate. Analysts believe, had Pyari been with BJD, the result would have been different.
Whatever the reason, the electoral game has become a challenge for Naveen and he doesn’t want to take any chances. So Naveen Niwas has turned into the latest destination for power loving leaders and dissidents in other parties. The desperation in BJD to take these leaders in makes it look like the fortune game in a village fair where the timid egoist buys all the tickets to win the prize.
Basudev Mohapatra is a senior journalist and editor based in Bhubaneswar. He may contacted @ [email protected]