Odisha is one of those few states where BJP has never tasted power on its own. It is also a state where the regional party in the form of BJD has ruled for more than a decade. Recently Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling regime. He also was quick to say that the ruling BJD govt was ineffective and inefficient. He subtly highlighted that the people of Odisha are ready to embrace a change. These remarks by Pradhan definitely carry a lot of weight and they also symbolize changes at the ground level in Odisha politics.
Fundamentally, there are few reasons why Odisha seems to be waiting in the wings and is vying for a transformation. The climate is conducive for the BJP to step in and grow further in the state to capture power soon.
Anti-Incumbency – Firstly, BJD and Naveen Patnaik are ruling Odisha for years. The anti-incumbency factor in the next set of elections will be tremendous. On the contrary, there was never a viable alternative as Patnaik dominated the scenes without much of a challenge. Congress and BJP were sidelined in this process and they never seemed to hold any sway in the state. Naveen Patnaik has been ruling Odisha in the form of a dynasty and the winds of change in the national polity finally seems to have seeped inside the state politics. Another important aspect is that the first time voters have never seen anything except the BJD. These young voters may identify themselves with the vibrant leadership of PM Modi more and hence vote on those lines in the future. With the likes of leaders like Dharmendra Pradhan in the state, Odisha never seemed so ready to explore an alternative and seek a change.
Rising BJP: Secondly, as mentioned above, sweeping changes in Odisha are visible at the grass root levels. The vote share of the BJP in recently held Zilla Parishad polls has increased multifold. It tasted success at many fronts which has left BJD worrying. BJP came second in many seats and were able to upscale their tally by winning 306 out of 853 Zilla Parishad seats. This was a staggering performance compared to 36 seats it had bagged in 2012. BJP’s vote share during 2014 Lok Sabha polls was close to that of the Congress. Looking at the current numbers and trends, BJP for sure has decimated Congress for the opposition’s position in the state. And now they stand as a major challenge to Patnaik in the subsequent assembly elections. Zilla Parishad polls are usually won comprehensively by the ruling regime. But this trend of BJP emerging as a major player is a significant development which cannot be ignored. The party cadre is enthused, and they have a CM face in the form of the Petroleum minister which will further boost their prospects in the next assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Infighting : Thirdly, BJD is experiencing its worst infighting in its state unit since Patnaik consolidated his hold over the state. The biggest blow to BJD was in the form of a sulking Jay Panda. Panda is a suave MP from BJD who is turning out to be a rebel whilst criticizing BJD and applauding BJP and its policies. Jay Panda has basically questioned the functioning of the party in his articles. The impending infighting has spilled even on the streets and has led to clashes with BJD workers and Panda supporters. But infighting has not just restricted to Panda but also has branched to other leaders and ministers. Factionalism is rampant, and this is something which was highlighted by poor performance of BJD in recent ZP elections. Lok Sabha leader B. Mahtab has sort of reiterated Jay Panda’s stand and questioned rampant bayanbazi in BJD whilst the BJP is steadily making good progress in the state. The CM has denied the party is weak or is experiencing infighting. However, Jay Panda and pro Patnaik BJD leader Tathagata Sathpathy’s twitter feud over the functioning of the party has demonstrated severe bitterness. Nevertheless, if Panda quits BJD and joins BJP, it will be a shot in the arm for the prospects of the saffron party in the state.
BJD’s Confusion:Fourthly, BJD has opposed some of the good policies of the Modi Govt such as the abolition of Triple Talaq. Politics of vendetta somewhere may hurt the state in its march to progress. A centre state synchronization will help the state prosper and will put an end to the new emerging politics of the third front. BJD increasingly is becoming a subtle form of somebody like Mamata Banarjee and this will damage the state in the long run. As seen with MP or even Bihar, the cordial relation between the centre and the state has certainly been more beneficial. If BJP sweeps to power with a CM face such as Pradhan, the combination of Modi Pradhan at the centre state level will be a boon. Pradhan has been one of the best performers in the Modi cabinet and donning the mantle of Odisha will take the state to newer heights.
With drubbing of Congress in recently held elections in Gujarat and Himachal, a confident BJP is surging ahead. Nevertheless, its euphoric win in Uttar Pradesh was more emphatic. It was not just about the scale but also about the opponent. BJP was able to defeat decades of regional party rule in UP. This is a pattern it will need to adopt, and Odisha seems to be well in course to be captured and broken from the shackles of an obsolete regional dynasty.