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Is Naveen 2.0 making BJP Odisha sweat?

By Tazeen Qureshi 

Dharmendra-Naveen

Bhubaneswar: When the BJP replaced the Congress to secure the second spot in the political pecking order after the Panchayat polls in February, its ascendancy was seen as a warning bell for the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD Government. Never before this had Patnaik felt threatened by the opposition. The strong show by the saffron party suggested that the Modi wave, which failed to sway the people of Odisha in 2014, had finally hit Odisha. But five months down the line, the whole scenario has changed yet again, with Naveen Patnaik’s ‘Nabakalebara’ and a complete revamp in his style of functioning.

Interestingly, Naveen Patnaik has plucked a leaf or two out of the BJP’s own strategy book to beat the saffron party in its own game. He has gone in for a complete image makeover, discarding his image of someone distant and aloof, he has become more friendly and accessible for everyone: not just with the media or on the social media, but even with the layman. It is a strategy straight out of the BJP’s – especially Modi’s – book. In the process, the stern politician, who has mostly stayed aloof all these years, has come out of his comfort zone to interact with people, engage with them on social media and even voice his opinions on certain issues. Not only has he revamped his own style, he has also asked his comrades to change with the changing times. At a time when some serious intra-party brawls made the headlines, he acted swiftly and managed to keep his members intact.

BJP, on the other hand, which brought in an array of senior political leaders in an attempt to create a buzz in the state, now finds it tough to keep the momentum going. The visits by Central ministers and top BJP leaders to the state, after clearing a flutter in the initial days, now appear routine and commonplace and fail to excite people.

Though the party has continuously attacked the State Government over a host of issues, it doesn’t appear to have had the desired effect. One of the factors that has helped in the rise of the BJP in the state is the sorry state of the Congress. But if there is even a slight improvement in its fortunes under a new leadership – for which an exercise is currently on – it could spell trouble for the BJP, which has just recently taken over from the Congress as the main opposition party in the state.

With an early election a distinnct possibility, BJP will need to bring back the hype and excitement for an interesting battle of seats in the next election in Odisha.