Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 26:
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed the first year of his five-year term today, his party in Odisha is going through an existential crisis.
At the start of his term this time last year, which coincided with the beginning of the fourth term of Naveen Patnaik as Chief Minister, the BJP was on the ascendant frequently putting the BJD government on the mat on issues ranging from the chit fund scam to land scam.
Though it did not win too many seats in the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in May, 2014, its stock had begun to rise in the state as was evident with politicians from other parties jumping fence to join the saffron party. The party even bettered its scores in elections in comparison to previous ones.
But one year down the line, the sting appears to have gone out of the once combative BJP.
Political observers feel it is advantage Modi at the end of his first year as PM , but loss for both Odisha and BJP.
The Modi magic had failed to work in the state in the last elections with the party winning only ten seats in the Assembly and one in the Lok Sabha. However, right from his assuming of office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to win over the hearts of people of Odisha. While the party had won just a single seat in the Lok Sabha, the state was rewarded with two ministerial berths. Jual Oram was appointed a cabinet minister while young Odisha BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar, was appointed a minister of state with independent charge of an important department like Petroleum and Natural Gas. Towards the end of the first year, tribal leader and former minister Draupadi Murmu was appointed Jharkhand Governor.
Bureaucrats belonging to Odisha cadre or hailing from Odisha were posted in several key posts. The imprint was also discernible at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
In keeping with the new-found importance given to the state under the Modi dispensation, the ‘PRASAD’ scheme and scheme for providing subsidised LPG to BPL families were launched from Odisha. However, the state perhaps has failed to reap the quantum of gain it should have reaped from this. The BJP state unit too has failed to draw political mileage out of this.
After the elections, the BJP in the state had initially had made life difficult for the BJD government in the state by raising issues one after another. The party had cornered Rajya Sabha MP Kalpataru Das on the issue of land scam. Das lost his position as the leader of the BJD parliamentary party in the Rajya Sabha and his son Pranab Balabantray had to return the flat allotted to him under the discretionary quota.
The BJP put the BJD in the dock by demanding CBI probe into the chit fund scam. The CBI too reached the doors of Naveen Niwas, Naveen Patnaik’s residence. BJP workers were excited over the Centre’s action and the attacking stance of the BJP leaders in the state had unnerved Naveen and his party considerably.
Workers from different political parties had begun jumping fences to join the BJP. Though the party could not beat the BJD either in Kandhamal bypolls or at ULB polls, but it did increase its vote share. The party was so over excited that it gave a call for a Mahasangram against the state government. The party’s national president Amit Shah joined the state unit in its call for mahasangram.
That is the time things appear to have begun going downhill for the BJP in the state.
The party fell flat against the game plan of the BJD. Amit Shah refused to utter a word against the BJD government demoralising state leaders and party cadres alike in the process. Taking a cue from Shah’s speech, the BJP appears to have gone soft on the state government. The CBI has gone slow in its investigations and the much vaunted Mahasangram has met with a premature death.
Party workers were further shocked with the sudden bonhomie between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. At a meeting in Rourkela, Modi called Naveen a ‘friend’ and thanked him for extending support to his government in the Parliament.
Pary workers feel so badly let down at this new equation between the erstwhile rivals that half the members of the state executive were absent at the recently concluded meeting while those who were present wore sullen faces.
However, Modi government’s budget has disappointed his friend’s state. The Central government has made it clear that it’s not going to fork out a penny as assistance under eight schemes. In 33 programmes, the Centre has reduced its share while increasing the share of the state. Several schemes launched during the UPA government like BGRF, special assistance to KBK region, police modernisation and grants for construction of model schools at the block level have been summarily done away with. The state government has estimated that it will be sustaining a loss of Rs 2148.83 crore by way of these decisions of the Central government.
Similarly, there is total confusion over the location of the proposed IIM in Odisha. Students have been deprived of taking admissions in the current academic session.
As if that was not enough, Union Labour and Employment Minister rejected outright the earlier proposal for establishment of a medical college by the ESIC at Bhubaneswar at an estimated cost of Rs 800 crore.
Bifurcation of East Coast Railway, shifting of HAL from Koraput to Bengaluru, downsizing of PPL corporate office and most important of all the Centre’s indifference to the Posco project has made the people of the state unhappy.
Last but not the least the people of the state are not happy over the Centre’s assistance for Lord Jagganath’s Nabakalebara festival.
While Odisha and BJP have lost, Modi and Naveen have gained.