This raises the question, is Naveen Patnaik led BJD became invincible in Odisha or both the national parties (Congress and BJP) committed political suicide in this polity. Let’s examine this question from both the parties' point of view sequentially. But before that let me give a brief introduction of Odisha polity which is unknown to rest of India.
Odisha perhaps is only state in the country which doesn’t have any caste equation or any religion equation. No vote bank politics works here. Though this state is economically backward but politically very advanced. Its voting pattern is always performance based and also depends on credence on alternative parties. For example if people are disappointed with ‘X’ party, then they will vote to ‘Y’ party only if it has credentials.
It’s also not averse to vote new parties. In 1967-1972, Odisha voted ‘Swatantra Party and Orissa Jana Congress and also United Front. Here individual charisma too doesn’t work once people start rejecting. Legendary Odia politician Biju Patnaik too lost all five assembly seats he contested during 1971 besides losing his Lok Sabha seat. Thus it’s always considered a miracle for Naveen Patnaik, who doesn’t know Odia language (his mother Gyan Patnaik is Punjabi) is set to be elected Chief Minister for the fourth successive term! Is he so invincible or there are other reasons?
In the Context of Congress Party:
No doubt it was the worst management of 1999 super cyclone, which paved way for the Congress’ ouster in 2000 assembly elections. However during that time, though BJD under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik splited from Janata Dal to join BJP in 1997 still a party entirely dependent on BJP.
It hasn’t party cadre of its own as the Janata Dal still exists. As a matter of moral policy, Biju Patnaik never introduced his children in Odisha polity. Prem Patnaik the eldest son of Biju Patnaik first denied being part of Biju Patnaik’s political legacy. Navin Patnaik came reluctantly in to the polity. None from Odisha ever know who the man is Naveen Patnaik, who couldn’t speak the mother tongue of his father.
It was Vajpayee's wave that in fact gave them good results in 1998 parliamentary elections where BJD won 9 seats; BJP won 7 seats leaving 5 seats to Congress. However for assembly elections because of the presence of Janata Dal, Congress should have expected to do better. But its internal groupism (JB group, Gamango group, Hemananda Biswal group) for which the Congress lost comprehensibly in 2000 bagging only 26 seats. Janata Dal too lost the elections getting only 1 seat.
During 2004, Navin Patnaik was so dependent on Vajpayee wave; he had to announce legislative assembly elections along with Lok Sabha elections one year early! That was really opportune time for the Congress to return to the power. But unfortunately the Congress missed the opportunity because of its own fault.
In the Context of BJP:
BJP is the party whose popularity, craze and wave made Naveen Patnaik chief Minister. In the absence of real cadres BJD in fact totally depended upon BJP cadres. It’s the hard work of BJP workers which brought NDA to power in Odisha in 2000 and 2004. However BJD did the smart trick. It realized during 2004 following NDA’s loss in the Parliament elections, that ground work is necessary.
BJP committed mistake of being over confident, taking people of Odisha for granted. After getting the power, the link to the ground is lost. Leaders distanced themselves from common people and workers, whereas BJD had initiated hard work at the ground. They have taken many ignored BJP ground workers in to their fold, created cadres and worked very hard, while BJP leaders enjoyed power, delinked from ground and taken for granted that BJD can’t leave them.
Thus during 2009 elections, BJD started bargaining with BJP on seat sharing on win-ability criteria. BJD indicated that it’s going to give some 25 seats in assembly elections and not more than five in Lok Sabha elections. Earlier the arrangement for Lok Sabha was BJD-11 and BJP-9 and assembly election, BJD-77 and BJP-63. This seat sharing controversy couldn’t be solved and BJP withdrawn support from the BJD government.
They have gone into assembly elections independently. But they find the reality hunting them back. No ground worker, no support made them seriously biting dust in 2009 election, they got only 6 seats. The dream of Odisha BJP ended with a serious nightmare.
Since then one would expected that BJP would take some corrective measures. But unfortunately even BJP high command didn’t look in to the matter. The same old rejected leaders (Juel Oram, Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, Manmohan Samal etc) still rule the Odisha BJP and taking the party in the process of complete rout in Odisha.
They could have brought Dharmendra Behera in to Odisha polity, projected him as the face of Odisha BJP, but there must be something, which stops all these good initiative. Now AAP is knocking the door of Odisha politics and one can see 2014 election in Odisha between AAP and BJD! People of Odisha have much craze for Narendra Modi. But in the absence of regional party leader and structure, I don’t think BJP gaining any seat here!
Thus it can be concluded that Naveen Patnaik is not invincible rather the Congress and BJP committed political suicide in Odisha polity. One shouldn’t be surprised if Naveen Patnaik led BJD losses 2014 elections, and instead of Congress or BJP, AAP gets into power.
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