Dhamnagar will drive BJD for course corrections

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When CM Naveen Patnaik, in his first reaction to the BJD’s defeat in the Dhamnagar by-election, said he expected the BJP to win, he only betrayed his feelings of “shock and surprised”.

Patnaik has the rare distinction of being one of the few leaders never to have been defeated in an election. His party, the BJD, has been in power in the state for 22 years, winning elections based on its image and popularity. It is said that although the problems against the BJD government are not lacking, the opposition has failed to take advantage of them to dislodge Patnaik from power thanks to his unparalleled skill in micromanaging elections.

However, out of the six by-votes held since 2009 in the state, the BJD witnessed defeat for the first time in Dhamnagar held on November 3. in the end, the party suffered a crushing defeat, with rival BJP retaining the seat by a comfortable margin.

According to poll watchers, the Dhamnagar result was a lesson for the BJD. The Padmapur by-election is scheduled for December 5 and thereafter the Assembly and general elections are scheduled for 2024. They believe that given the crucial election period ahead, if the BJD does not redirect its strategy, it could turn out to be suicidal.

hero worship

The BJD is now a one man show because its leaders are too dependent on the image of party leader Naveen to win the elections. As such, there is a constant and deliberate attempt by everyone to keep Naveen’s image glowing. But there are two cases that proved that this very practice put the BJD on the docket. First, after winning the feat of a lifetime from a Delhi-based NGO, when Naveen’s party men tried to put on a show in the capital, the BJD drew a lot of criticism.

The city’s roads were choked due to Naveen’s bus rally addressing thousands of party workers. It is alleged that crores were spent on the mega show to inflate Patnaik’s image. On the contrary, it had put road users in absolute inconvenience. Secondly, Industry Minister and MP Aul Pratap Deb quarreled when he said that Odisha was better known externally by Naveen than even Lord Jagannath.

Political observers are of the opinion that the BJD leaders must muster their guts to refrain from seeing this hero revered and soliciting the vote on Naveen’s behalf. They need to stop basking in the party leader glow and prove what they are doing. Also, they need to dispel the perception of “Raj officers” in the BJD government where bureaucrats enjoy preponderance over the elected leaders of the state.

too much confidence

Winning elections five times in a row has made the BJD a little overconfident. The opposition Congress and the BJP call it the “arrogance” of the BJD. In fact, the party remained blind to the anti-incumbent factor. When the Brajrajnagar poll was a resounding success even without CM Patnaik going there to campaign,

there was a sense that the party was invincible in the state no matter who ran for election. The party developed this impudence towards Dhamnagar. Patnaik did not go there to campaign for the party’s candidate; he campaigned via videoconference instead. Moreover, the party made a mistake in the selection of the candidate. Instead of relying on his candidate’s organizational ability and leadership quality, he clung to an ideological standpoint of women’s empowerment to win over voters. Thus, the selection of SHG leader Abanti Das was a disaster.

Dissent

The BJD has faced the dissent factor as a threat for some years. Despite Patnaik’s firm grip on the party, dissidence is staring the BJD in the face. The negligence of some leaders and workers to the detriment of others, and especially the choice of candidates during the election period, has accentuated dissent within the party. Raju Das’ problem might just be the tip of an iceberg. It is undeniable that the rebel leader Raju cost the BJD dearly in the Dhamnagar poll and the votes Raju got led to a split in the BJD votes leading to his defeat. Given that the BJD has been in power the longest, it is obvious that it would find many candidates for the ticket in the elections. The party must therefore effectively manage this “problem of abundance” during the next elections, say the experts in polls.

Row of honey traps

The Archana Nag honey trapping and blackmailing scandal has taken the state by storm. Since Archana was imprisoned, there have been allegations that many leaders, especially the BJD, were involved in sex racketeering. Until the cloud of suspicion clears, with however powerful and influential culprits brought to the books, the BJD will be on the back foot. And, the opposition could well seize the question to navigate until the elections. In the Dhamnagar poll, the BJP used this controversy along with all the other sex scandals and murders allegedly involving BJD ministers, to launch a scathing attack on the BJD. The Navnirman Krushak Sangathan (NKS) has also campaigned heavily against the BJD on a host of issues including the Archana scandal. Together, they not only exposed the BJD’s double standards of women’s dignity and empowerment, but they also morally pissed it off.

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