25 years of struggle, celebration & defiance for the BJD

5-‘S’ has enabled BJD to defy all predictions, opinion polls, forecasts by political pundits and soothsayers in 25-years, writes Soumyajit Pattnaik

An anniversary may be a routine affair. But it’s no ordinary anniversary for the BJD as the party completes 25-years tomorrow. It has been 25 years of struggle, celebration and defiance for the BJD. The party has defied all predictions, opinion polls, forecasts by political pundits and soothsayers in 25-years.

It has been an amazing and awesome journey for the BJD which began with the formation of a new regional party on December 26, 1997.

BJD’s journey has been amazing because not many prescient persons had any inkling that the party would dominate Odisha politics like a colossus for more than 2 decades. The journey is awesome because the BJD has won five successive Assembly elections with mostly landslide victories. Had anyone stuck his neck out in 1997 and told that the party would win five elections on the trot, he would have been certainly advised to seek psychiatric treatment by the political savants.

Several factors have contributed to the emergence of BJD as the pre-eminent political force in the State and a strong regional party in the entire country.

If 5-T is the new administrative mantra, BJD’s success is based on 5-S. The 5-S which has defined the BJD over the years are namely: 1. Stability & Solidity (at the top) 2. Schemes (from cradle to grave) 3. Solidarity (with weaker sections) 4. Shock-therapy (strong response to indiscipline) & 5. SHGs

Stability and solidity at the top has been one of the most valuable assets of the BJD. Despite the roller coaster ride of the party, Naveen Patnaik as the BJD president for 25 years has lent much solidity and direction to the party.

The prime strength of the BJD has been Biju Babu’s legacy and Naveen Patnaik’s image. In the initial years, towering Biju Babu’s legacy powered BJD’s growth and strengthened its support base. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s unblemished persona and squeaky clean image subsequently bolstered the BJD. As the years passed, BJD was strengthened further by overweening support mainly from women and vulnerable sections of the society. The BJD’s strength has also been its ideological flexibility so that people professing different political beliefs were attracted towards the party.

While Naveen Patnaik at the top has exercised command and control to steer the party, many young leaders in their 30s and 40s have now occupied key positions in the organisational structure. The party structure now reflects a combination of veterans and new blood which is essential to give the much required impetus to scale new heights. Even at party press meets, one gets to see many young faces which is a welcome sign to keep the party energetic.

Now, we will turn to ‘Schemes”, the second-S. The BJD and the conch symbol have made deep inroads in rural areas of the state mainly because of delivery to the vulnerable sections of the society through a slew of welfare schemes. And the schemes are often launched based on scientific surveys and needs of the people. For example, there was a compelling reason to launch the BSKY smart card scheme for free medical treatment of the beneficiaries. A recent report by World Health Organisation released on December 12 said, “New evidence compiled by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank shows ….more than half a billion people were pushed or further pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets…”.

In this backdrop, the BSKY smart health card scheme has been launched. Critics of the scheme can relate it to Panchayat Polls, but there are ample research findings to launch this scheme in Odisha.

Coming to schemes of the BJD Government, we can cite another example. On the sports schemes, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting with MPs from Uttar Pradesh advised them to organise sports tournaments in their constituencies. A prominent national daily on December 17 reported, “…A common piece of advice that Mr Modi seems to be telling all MPs who have met him so far is to organise sports tournaments in their areas to encourage both health and a sporting spirit”. Even the PM’s thinking on popularising sports is quite similar to what the BJD Government has been doing in the last few years.

Schemes from cradle to grave have been the mainstay of the BJD in last 25 years.

Now, the third S which stands for ‘Solidarity’. The schemes are intrinsically connected to the party’s solidarity with weaker sections of the society. From Re 1/kg rice to Covid assistance of Rs 1000 each to 96 lakh persons, from transforming government high schools to arranging free pilgrimage trips for senior citizens, the BJD has been able to mobilise support from people cutting across both rural and urban areas.

Shock therapy has emerged as a very effective weapon in BJD to deal with gross indiscipline. Naveen Patnaik has always displayed steely resolve to deal with those who create internal discord or wilfully damage party reputation.

In these 25-years, Naveen Patnaik has foiled several machinations and palace intrigues. He has made several stunning comebacks by outmanoeuvring ambitious leaders within the party who try to hijack the mandate for him. Naveen Patnaik is known for his soft persona and savoir faire behaviour, but he’s not shy of taking hard decisions to keep party discipline intact. In the initial years, many underestimated Naveen’s political dexterity as he was a greenhorn and the initial tussle flared up with those who wanted to see Naveen to act only as a mascot to fetch votes. But Biju Babu’s younger son wanted his writ to run in the party and in administration with equal determination. Many thought Naveen Patnaik would soon get disillusioned by the internecine battle and go back to the salubrious climes of Lutyen’s Delhi to write more books. Before stepping into politics, he had authored three books. But he didn’t hesitate to pick up the gauntlet and displayed the skills of a tenacious fighter.

And Naveen Patnaik has not looked back since 2000 to build the BJD as an impregnable fortress which has not been breached by the challengers in the last 21 years.

Naveen Patnaik’s sober and simple persona has added to the BJD image. In the face of tough challenges, Naveen has always remained unfazed. He does not indulge in a slanging match with his political rivals to score political brownie points. The BJD on several occasions charted its course through choppy waters, but the unfazed captain never allowed the ship to become rudderless.

Now the fifth “S’ which stands for SHGs. Even the worst critics of BJD will concur that Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) have contributed immensely to bolster the party’s support base among women. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Pramila Bosoyi, a prominent face of SHGs in Ganjam district, was made the MP candidate from Aska Lok Sabha constituency. Nearly 5000-crore worth government business is now being routed through women SHGs. The SHG movement has acted as a catalyst for the economic empowerment of nearly 70 lakh women members. And it’s needless to add that SHGs have played a pivotal role for the electoral success of the BJD in successive elections.

Biju Janata Dal, the eponymous party named after the legendary Biju Patnaik, will turn 25 tomorrow.

BJD in last 25 years has weathered several internal storms, but it showed enough resilience to chisel its own road.

BJD has indubitably become an invincible political force. Only arrogance, hubris and complacency can fail it now.

 

Also read: 2022 Odisha Polls: Big 2 In Big Fight
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