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How BJP succeeded in Panchayat election & why Naveen Patnaik needs to worry about BJP's emergence in 2019 Assembly election?
Recently, I was at Baripada, district headquarter of Mayurbhanj district in North Odisha. I curiously asked my friend Arun Sarkar, as to how BJP had fared so well in the recently concluded Panchayat election particularly when it doesn't have a strong organisational presence in the state and barring emerging leader Dhramendra Pradhan, there's no other credible leader.
My friend listed out four reasons as explained below:

1)      BJD leaders lost the connection with ground-level workers as well as the public. Perhaps, getting electoral success in the name of Naveen Patnaik made them casual towards maintaining ground contact.

2)      In villages and even in remote tribal areas, Narendra Modi has become very popular and a household name courtesy his 'Mann Ki Baat'. Today, every remote area has radios and the people there keenly listen to the PM's monthly program 'Mann Ki Baat'. All consider Narendra Modi as their well-wisher and thus, BJP became the automatic choice for many.

3)      Demonetisation worked very well for all poor and tribal people. Their Jandhan accounts received deposits of around Rs 2 to 3 lakh each (Their accounts were used by kendu leaf traders and others for legitimising their unaccounted black money). Later on, Narendra Modi asked people not to return the money deposited by others in their accounts and if anybody demanded that money back, they should contact him (Modi). Thus, whoever deposited his or her unaccounted money stopped asking them for its return! So, those people became beneficiaries of around Rs 2 lakh each. They gave all the credit to Narendra Modi for this.

4)      Ujjala and other developmental schemes have been well appreciated by the poor people from villages and tribal areas and they have started looking upon Narendra Modi as their messiah. Also, the BJP has managed to convince people of the state that the one rupees per kilo rice that they are getting is not courtesy of the state government, but rather, a gift from the Central government (Modi government), as it gives a subsidy or Rs 23 per kg whereas the state government only provides a subsidy of Rs 2 to 3 per kilo of rice.

I was really amazed by this straight forward answer which I had never imagined despite my long experience as a close observer of politics. I asked him whether money power too had a role in BJP's success. My friend suggested that this time the BJP matched the ruling BJD in money power as both Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh governments also participated actively in this Panchayat election. But then, people too are very smart, as they keep money from all but vote for the candidate who they feel is better.

I think that various opposition parties, political analysts and mainstream media should take a note of the above. When Narendra Modi started 'Mann Ki Baat' many including myself were skeptical as to why he had selected radio instead of TV. But Narendra Modi knew very well that radio had presence in each and every corner of the country and that's the best medium to connect with the people. Opposition and some media channels questioned 'Mann Ki Baaat' without understanding the impact of it. Many ridiculed it as a monologue, some even sarcastically asking Narendra Modi that when he was going to listen to the 'Dil Ki Baat' of the public. But the people at large appreciated the fact that the Prime Minister of India was connecting with them through radio.

Similarly, the entire opposition was horribly wrong on demonetisation and opposed the move just for opposition's sake, not keeping a track of what the people thought. The election results say that people appreciated the demonetisation drive.

If programs intended for poor people are implemented in the right earnest, they give rich political dividends. Narendra Modi-led BJP government proved it. The various programmes of upliftment of people including Ujjala, Swachha Bharat, Housing for All, telecommunications, rural electricity, road connectivity etc are visible at the ground-level and the people have started appreciating Narendra Modi and his government.

Thus, I would suggest the opposition to drop this negative mindset in painting Narendra Modi as a devil. When people consider someone as a dynamic leader, your attempts to portray him wrongly will always prove counterproductive. So, it is better for them to work as a constructive opposition which can win some credibility.

Is BJP going to win the 2019 Assembly election in Odisha? 

Well, I'm not sure as Naveen Patnaik is still very popular in Odisha. Yes, he can win the 2019 Assembly election but only if he changes around 90 per cent of his MLA candidates. The point to be noted here is that incumbency rarely goes against the leader or CM candidate. Incumbency is always a liability at candidate-level. In MCD election, BJP convincingly beat incumbency by changing all its counsellor candidates. In Odisha, BJD has been ruling since 2000 and many four-timer or three-timer MLAs are facing strong anti-incumbency. So, I feel that Naveen Patnaik perhaps will go for fresh candidates in the 2019 Assembly election. But it's for sure that the BJP will give a tough contest to Naveen Patnaik and his party the BJD.
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