By Soumyajit Pattnaik
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing a fine balancing act in Odisha. PM Modi seems to be treading the prudent path keeping in view the dire need to have more allies in the NDA camp when frantic efforts are already underway to cobble together a Mahagathbandhan. With the SP and BSP already announcing a seat-sharing pact to fight the U.P Lok Sabha polls together, there is a greater need for the BJP than ever before to look for friendly support from elsewhere. And with Naveen Patnaik ruling out any truck with the Mahagathbandhan last week, PM Modi has no reasons to snap ties completely with the BJD supremo.
PM Modi is not oblivious of the fact that his party colleagues in Odisha and especially those relishing the CM’s post are yearning for a hawkish Modi adopting a more strident posture towards Naveen Patnaik. Perhaps, these CM hopefuls will like PM Modi to launch a blistering attack against CM Naveen as he does against Rahul Gandhi or belatedly against AP CM Chandrababu Naidu.
But with allies like TDP and AGP severing their ties with the NDA and with new regional alliances like Cong-JD (S) & SP-BSP firming up, PM Modi is left with a Hobson’s choice. Howsoever PM Modi and CM Naveen may have drifted apart in recent years, they have not jettisoned their core ideology.
BJD was born to fight the Congress in Odisha and to fulfil the state’s regional aspirations. Howsoever Congress under Rahul Gandhi may be trying assiduously to usher in a new alliance culture based on healthy respect for regional allies, the BJD at this juncture cannot embrace the Congress. BJD is named after the anti-Congress stalwart Biju Patnaik who was imprisoned during the 1975 Emergency. Biju Babu was also a key architect of a non-Congress government at the Centre, be it in 1977 or 1996. A party which owes its name to a great anti-Congress crusader can never join hands with the Congress. In fact, those leaders who have left the BJD to join the Congress have bitten the dust at the hustings.
In this backdrop, PM Modi has chiselled a correct path by keeping the doors ajar for a possible post-poll working relationship if not an outright alliance with the BJD.
PM Modi had given the go ahead to his key lieutenants in the State to conquer Odisha in 2019. The most ruthless election machine since Independence was pitted against the most impregnable fortress in eastern India which has not been breached since 2019. The BJD seems to have fought well to defend its turf.
Do Odisha BJP leaders have any reasons to be upset with PM Modi’s non-aggressive posture towards CM Naveen?
Those BJP leaders including a Union minister should do serious soul-searching whether they met the PM’s expectations to dislodge the BJD Government? Did they botch their internal plans by relying heavily upon a select band of supporters and alienating a majority including some senior leaders? Did they devote sufficient time to strengthen the BJP at the grassroots or did they use their positions to visit the state only on weekends?
PM Modi and party president Amit Shah certainly gave a carte blanche to a CM-hopeful from Odisha BJP to intensify the party’s campaign and bloom the lotus in the state. If these leaders have frittered away the opportunity, they should own up their lapses. To project themselves as frontrunners for the CM’s post, these BJP leaders have clipped the wings of their senior colleagues, started a new personality cult and paid only lip service to collective leadership.
From now onwards, personal chemistry between leaders too will determine electoral arithmetic. PM Modi seems to have drawn appropriate conclusions about the likely electoral verdict in Odisha. Realpolitik now dictates that damaged bridges with potential future allies should be repaired forthwith.
PM Modi, no doubt, termed the Odisha government “somnolent” so far as the DMF fund utilisation is concerned. PM fired the DMF missile by questioning the unspent Rs 4000-crore meant for the welfare of the poor people in mineral-bearing districts. The District Mineral Foundation fund has got Rs 5600 crore till October 31, 2018 and only 20% of sanctioned money has been spent so far for the allocated projects. PM’s pot-shot should act as a wake-up call for the Odisha Government to refocus on.