Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Kendrapara, Ap 13:
Having tried every trick in the book – and some out of the book as well – Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) lord Naveen Patnaik stooped to a new low today when he resorted to the worst kind of parochial appeal in his desperate bid to stop arch rival Bijay Mohapatra’s entry to the Assembly.
Addressing an election rally at Ramnagar, his second in the last fortnight in this Assembly constituency, Patnaik played the ‘Bengali card’ assuring the predominantly Bengali crowd that he would settle their land problem if his party is voted back to power.
“BJD stands for the legitimate rights of the migrants from West Bengal,” he said.
Of course, no one asked him what prevented him from doing what he said he would do in the three successive terms that he has won as Chief Minister.
Perhaps aware that this may be held against him, The BJD boss had Arabinda Dhali, a Bengali settler himself, in tow to buttress his newly acquired pro-Bengali credentials.
Dhali went a step ahead of his boss, raising the spectre of the BJP, the party that he belonged to in the none-too-distant past, branding them Bangladeshis and throwing them out of the place if voted to power.
“Don’t vote for the BJP. They would deport you if they come to power,” warned Dhali.
By now, it is obvious that no other Assembly constituency in the state has received as much attention and caused as much concern to the BJD supremo than Mahakalpada, which remains the only constituency that has had the privilege of having Naveen Patnaik twice during the campaign.
He first visited the constituency on April 2 when the campaign for the first phase of polls was at fever pitch. Mahakalpada thus had the honour of being the only constituency among those going to polls in the second phase that hosted the Chief Minister before the campaign for the first phase ended on April 8.
Patnaik has been moving heaven and earth to ensure the defeat of Bijay Mohapatra.
Though he has successfully checkmated the founder member of BJD and former chairman of the BJD’s Parliamentary Affairs Board in three successive elections, he has been overtaken by doubt this time. He is apprehensive that all his dirty tricks and generous pumping in of money may not be enough to stop Mohapatra in his tracks this time.
Reliable reports suggest the party has already spent over Rs 7 crore to wean people away from a resurgent Mohapatra, who has struck an emotional chord with the people with his declaration that this would be his last election if he does not win this time.
Party insiders say the BJD boss would not mind losing 10 seats as long as he can ensure that Mohapatra does not win.
His apprehensions are not unfounded. Mohapatra remains the only leader of note who has never wavered for a moment in his opposition to Naveen Patnaik after the bitter parting of ways in the midst of the 2000 elections even as other opposition leaders have fallen head over heels in their bid to be in Naveen’s good books.
Naveen knows that Mohapatra has the political acumen and erudition to put him and his government on the mat on a daily basis if he finds his way back to the Assembly. The absence of Mohapatra in the House has ensured a smooth, hassle-free run for him in the Assembly with Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan being just about the only man who has caused some minor irritations to him.
“Patnaik knows that Mohapatra, if elected, would be a handful for him. That is why he has staked everything that he has to ensure that Mohapatra does not win,” said a senior political observer in Bhubaneswar.