Odisha local body elections threw surprising results. Despite BJD winning the polls, they seemed a little worried. BJP were the runners up and the margin of difference in the seats had reduced drastically. BJP has gained a lot of ground and now its seemingly making inroads in the state of Odisha. The party gathered 294 seats in Zilla Parishad polls. It was a phenomenal rise from a paltry 36 it had secured in 2012.
The aftershocks and the aftermath of the election results were not just about BJP gaining but also how BJD was slowly losing the plot. Ruling the state since 2000, BJD has come a long way. But now the party is facing a lot of discontent inside and that has spilled on to the news podium and even on the streets.
A lot of noises made by disgruntling leaders from within the party fold of the BJD has come in the news. But the most prominent of them was the suave and articulate MP, Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda. The results of Odisha polls were viewed very critically by him and he wrote an opinion piece asking the CM to introspect. This along with his proximity to the BJP camp resulted into a turn of events which saw BJD officially distancing itself from Panda. The side-lining began rather unceremoniously when Panda was relieved of his spokesman ship in May. From here the relations started to downfall. The MP has categorically maintained that he was neither consulted or apprised of this decision. Rumors of Jay Panda getting into BJP is replaced with the possibility of him now actually joining the BJP ranks.
Two events rather brought the infighting between them on to the public platform. When Jay Panda was inaugurating a drinking water project in Mahanga, eggs were hurled at him which emphasized the ugliness of the rift and brought it instantaneously in the public domain. Even if Odisha CM Patnaik has ordered investigations in to the matter, Health minister Jena has blamed Jay Panda for the attack which he believes was because of a seething discontent amongst masses.
The rift between CM Patnaik and MP Jay Panda seemed to have reached a vendetta level. The second event which displayed this fueling animosity was the cancellation of the mining rights representing business interests of Panda. Indian Metals and Ferrous Alloys (IMFA), a company owned by Mr Jay Panda’s family was denied the rights.
The State Pollution Board of Odisha had annulled consent to operate at their mining site in Jajpur district. Although reasons such as poor air quality or potholed roads were blamed, there is little doubt it cannot be a coincidence that these issues came up after the escalation of the rift had fully blown. “I have no comment on this topic. I have never mixed my politics with my family’s business interests,” Panda told reporters in a statement and added, “IMFA is one of Odisha’s oldest and most respected companies, also one of the state’s largest employers and will make its own defense regarding the allegations of potholes, etc.
The fight between the Odisha CM and Jay Panda is not just restricted towards them. There are other leaders in the BJD camp who too have expressed themselves in the press and have fully praised the Modi govt. The fall out here may be due to the cabinet reshuffle by CM Patnaik which seems to have been unpopular of sorts. The sulking BJD workers believe this move will downscale the morale of the party which is reeling under the weight of a resurgent BJP emerging in the state.
Barachana MLA Amar Prasad Satpathy, a five-time MLA feels ignored because his district has no representation in the ministry. Padmannabh Behera (Birmajaharajpur in Sonepur district), a four-time MLA and former minister, talked about how certain section of the leaders are unhappy over ignoring them inspite having won multiple elections. Some members of the discontented lot are even threatening to tender mass resignations.
Even if overall there is a crisis in the BJD camp, Jay Panda and his possibility of jumping into BJP has just symbolized it. BJD is facing the same problem which Sena is facing in Maharashtra. The rising tide of BJP is making BJD restless and uncomfortable which is further plummeting their prospects and hold over the state. The only difference is that in Odisha BJD is not in any alliance with the BJP unlike Maharashtra. Nevertheless, like Sena, they are posturing and arrogantly are trying to handle the situation which wont stop an exodus of leaders from BJD into the BJP.
When Narayan Rane left Sena, it did dent Sena’s chances in the Konkan where the erstwhile CM was strong. Likewise, Jay Panda’s departure will hurt the party dearly. Panda like Arun Jaitley is a master strategist and tactician who may help the BJP in its mission to capture the state in 2019. BJP had arranged its convention at Bhubaneshwar this year which was a snapshot of its seriousness in coming to power here.
The expected joining of Jay Panda will be an icing on the cake for the BJP after spectacularly rising as a force in the recently concluded elections.
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