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Coming Election would be a tough time for Naveen

"In the last Assembly election the winning-losing margin was less then 2000 votes in 22 constituencies. In 2000, BJP’s vote ratio was 18.2% which came down to 17.11% in 2004. And for BJD it was 29.4% and 27.36% respectively."

Bibhuti Bhusan Pati : May 15, 2008

As Assembly poll barely round the corner, Orissa politics is gradually bowling with electionaries and campaigns from various political outfits. A few months from now Naveen Patnaik shall be going to seek a mandate for the third time. It was never before in Orissa, one government remained in power in two consecutive terms without facing any political problem from within or outside, as in the case of present Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Several political issues like Kalinga Nagar and Maikanch police firing, starvation and epidemic deaths in KBK region, the great NREGS scam and health scam of world bank fund, and above all the recent sexual harassment allegations against Puri MLA and then speaker of the assembly Maheswar Mohanty came as threats, but Naveen has overcome all these with effortless ease. But still the political pundits are of the observation that coming elections will be a tough time for Naveen Patnaik, his party ‘BJD’ and the Coalition partner BJP.

According to a senior journalist Keshab Jena, “BJD’s coalition partner BJP would be a problem creator for Naveen Patnaik. It has been apparent that there is a great deal of factionalism within the BJP in the state. The shining example of this is giving a Rajya Sabha ticket to a rank outsider Balbir K Punj, as the central leadership of BJP found it absolutely difficult to satisfy all the splinter groups in the state. On the other hand, particularly in the Western part of Orissa (WO), the grassroots BJD workers would not at all support any BJP candidate internally because the local BJP MLAs and ministers have distanced themselves from the BJD workers since the last eight years. Members of the ruling party BJD workers are completely neglected by the BJP leadership in WO. On several occasions there have been physical clashes between the workers of two coalition parties.”

“Just the reverse is going to take place in the coastal belt where the BJP leaders are at the receiving end,” Mr. Jena added.

The former minister and once a top BJP cadre Arabinda Dhali (now the state president of Uma Bharati’s party) speaks, “For the so-called Naveen’s industrializations spree the tribals of the entire state are completely dissatisfied since the last four years. Tribals across state are in an agitating mood. The BJP that has a strong hold in the tribal belts of the state would face a straight rejection in the coming elections.”

“Although MoU in numbers are signed by this government there is hardly any progress in realization of the much hyped projects. Essential and public utility sectors like health services, roads and communications, education, rural sanitation facilities and programmes for eradication of poverty and unemployment problem are running very slow due to corruption, administrative apathy and negligence. These are the big issues BJP would have to face in the tribal dominated pockets. And the BJP has no proper reply to give to the agitated tribals. Again high profile BJP leader like Juel Oram, Sameer Dey, Draupadee Murmu and Ananta Nayak have openly shown their dissidence against Naveen. These BJP leaders would definitely cook problems for BJD in different constituencies. These factors would make BJP lose some seats in its strong hold and put BJD at troubles in achieving majority,” Dhali added. 

At this critical juncture, BJD - BJP coalition seems apparent in the coming election because the appraisal by central leaders of BJP has always been satisfying to Naveen. And, unlike many of his political predecessors, Naveen has great importance in the NDA and national political scenario. On the other hand, almost all other political parties existing in the state are filled up with anti Naveen leaders and Leftists who would not accept Naveen and facilitate coalition with BJD. Even it would be difficult for Naveen to take the other parties into confidence. So without BJP, BJD has no alternative. 

Seeking anonymity, an Officer from Specal Branch of Orissa said, “After two consecutive terms Naveen’s coalition government (both BJP and BJD) would face the anti-incumbency factor this time. Again, leaders like Sameer Dey, Pradeep Naik and A U Singh Deo would not be acceptable to their voters for several reasons. These types of leaders are certain losers which would hamper the coalition in making a number of clean majority in the house.”

The expelled senior BJD leader Ramakrushna Patnaik says, “The leg pulling politics within the BJD will be the greatest obstacle for Naveen to get majority in coming election. The example of leg pulling politics within the BJD is evident from the recent issues of Maheswar Mohanty, Bijayshree Routroy, and Padmanav Behera. Prior to them Panchanan Kanungo, Nagendra Pradhan, Ananda Acharya, Jajneswar Baboo, Ajaya Jena, Raj kishore Ram and many more have been victimized in this leg pulling”.

Further he added, “In the last election Naveen selected 40% new and young faces as BJD MLA candidates and suspended many stalwarts like Bijay Mohapatra, Sarat Kar, Ramakrushna Patnaik, and sacked many ministers like Kamala Das, Devi Mishra, and Prasanta Nanda (BJP). This created a clean image for Naveen and he won the second term elections easily. But this time it will not be fruitful. Rather it will create more rebels”.

Pravat Biswal - an independent MLA supporting BJD – spoke to Tehelka, “The corruption is more distinct at all levels during Naveen rule. People have changed their views on Naveen’s slogan of a corruption free Government as no action and charge sheets are initiated against Nalini Mahanty, Kamala Das and Prasanta Nanda to whom Naveen had sacked from his cabinet 8 years back in the name of corruption. Now people have started taking all these as political vendetta.”

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Naveen will lose his strength and support because of rising crimes and naxal attacks in the state and popular moments like Kranti Mancha and Krusaka Manch. The Kranti Mancha recently formed by one retired high court justice CH. P. Mishra. Similarly a veteran popular farmer leader of WO and reputed environmentalist Prafulla Samantaray have together been campaigning against Naveen’s anti farmer policies. They have very much successful in WO which would act as a threat for both BJD and BJP.

Some other regional parties like Samrudha Orissa (SO) and other political parties like NCP, SP, BSP, JMM and Uma Bharati’s party will be the dark horses for BJD-BJP coalition. Many leaders and workers from BJD and BJP are waiting for opportunities of making way to a viable non-Congress political platform. It may so happen before the coming election.

In the last Assembly election the winning-losing margin was less then 2000 votes in 22 constituencies. In 2000, BJP’s vote ratio was 18.2% which came down to 17.11% in 2004. And for BJD it was 29.4% and 27.36% respectively. These figures reveal that in 2004 BJD lost 2% and BJP 1% of votes. This 3% vote margin would be an advantage for the above-mentioned parties.

In this context the Naveen’s rulling BJD and BJP parties would face a tough time in the coming elections.

Possibilities before Naveen (Editor’s input)

Whenever there is an image crisis, Naveen has handled it so well that people’s thought and impression makes a U-turn and BJD regains its popularity. Since entering into politics, Naveen has always proved all predictions about him wrong. You can say it Naveen way of crisis management.

During his first term his bold action against three cabinet ministers by sacking them from his ministry was a landmark in Orissa’s post independence political history. This didn’t end corruption nor did it help people raising a voice against corruption that is quite rampant in every level of administration. But it illusioned people abut the government led by Naveen Pattnaik and Naveen could win in the very next election.

Now this time, his steps like taking away Maheswar Mahanty from the chair of the speaker and sacking a close confidant Debasis Nayak from the cabinet brought the same thing in the mind of people who now think Naveen can make anybody a scapegoat on certain allegations even though he/ she is close to him. And also people believe that Naveen tolerates no anti-party or anti-government moves by any member of his cabinet and party.

The very recent incidents of pulling down the senior IAS officer Priyabrat Pattnaik from his offices on charges of his link with gangster Raja Acharya and transferring Bhubaneswar – Cuttack Police Commissioner Binay Kumar Behera have helped Naveen regain his popularity. And Naveen, called Mr Clean by many, may take more drastic measures in regard to the Biranchi Das Murder Case to regain his popularity.

However, Naveen seems to be confident about winning the next election because the opposition parties including Congress still do not have a face against Naveen whom they would present as CM candidate. And, Naveen must also be aware about the factionalism in other major political parties that would compensate the similar problem in his own party during the coming election.

It is too early to make any prediction about Naveen as he is better known as Mr Unpredictable. So only time can tell how the opposition leaders and Naveen deal with the situation and who gains out of it.



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