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Opposition was no match for Naveen


Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 16:

Proving the naysayers wrong, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) looks all set to sweep both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Odisha, if the trends available till now are any indication.

Anti-incumbency has gone for a toss as the ruling party was leading in as many as 15 Lok Sabha seats and 91 Assembly seats.

File Pic
File Pic

While the whirlwind tour of BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi appears to have influenced voting patterns in the parliamentary elections to some extent, it does not seems to have had much of an impact in the Assembly elections – making a mockery of state unit president Kanak Vardhan Singhdeo’s outrageous claim that it would emerge as the single largest party in the state and form the government with support from a splinter group of BJD.

There are many possible reasons that can be attributed for the spectacular show of the BJD, which is now well on course to form the government for the fourth successive term, but none of them more important than what is known as the TINA (there is no alternative) factor. BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik came across as the clear winner when pitted against the those who led the two principal opposition parties – Jayadev Jena of the Congress and KV Singhdeo.

The ruling party was also the best prepared for the elections. Naveen Patnaik was first off the blocks, initiating a series of sops designed to cover every segment of the population. Even as the Congress gave the impression of a badly divided house, the well-oiled BJD organisation pulled out all stops to ensure victory for party candidates.

The panchayat elections in 2012 and municipal elections late last year provided just the right opportunity to the party to conduct a dress rehearsal as it were ahead of the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

The support network that the party has built up in the form of lakhs of women’s self help groups (SHGs) also came in handy. In close coordination with BJD workers, they were instrumental in taking the voters to the booths resulting in bulk votes for the party.

But nothing worked better for the ruling party than the administration and the police, which made no pretence about which side of the fence they belonged to. The bureaucracy, in particular, was unabashed in its championing of the BJD cause, Election Commission be damned.

There were a host of issues on which the two opposition parties could have pinned Naveen Patnaik and his party down, the series of scams that have taken place in Naveen’s rule being a case in point. But the Opposition failed to cash in on them. It is also a fact that the half-hearted attacks on the BJD did not cut much ice with the electorate still enamoured of Naveen.

As luck would have it, the announcement of the CBI inquiry into the multi thousand crore chit fund scam in the state came only after voting was over in the state. The Centre did little to corner the Naveen government over the report of the Shah Commission which inquired into the massive illegal mining in Odisha apparently because it had indicted both the state and Central governments.

There is no doubt, whatsoever, that the opposition would cry foul and accuse the BJD of using money and muscle power and misusing the administration. But that is what all incumbents governments do and hence, the opposition would have to find a better way to stop the Naveen juggernaut rather than hiding behind these lame excuses the next time.