By Sandeep Sahu
What a turn-around it has been! In five days flat, the BJD, which deluded itself – and persuaded many others to believe likewise – that it is destined to rule till eternity, has been yanked off the high pedestal it had perched itself on and brought down to the ground with a thud. It can clutch on to the fig leaf of “We are still the No. 1” for the time being. But there is no mistaking the signs. The gap between the BJD and the BJP, the party that has suddenly emerged as its principal contender out of nowhere, is narrowing down with each passing round. Looking at the voting pattern over the first three rounds, one will not be surprised if the saffron party actually steals a march over the BJD in the next two rounds.
How the BJD must be wishing there was a ban on the telecast/publication of ‘unofficial’ results! By now, it is clear that the ‘results’ of each round has worked as a force multiplier for the BJP in the next round. Results of one round of polling – even when unofficial – have a tendency to influence the voting pattern in the subsequent rounds, especially among the fence-sitters who take a call on their voting preferences at the last minute. That is why there is a ban in place on Exit Polls for the staggered Parliamentary and Assembly polls. Having failed to demand a ban on the broadcast/publication of ‘unofficial’ results before the election in the mistaken belief that it would be a beneficiary of the absence of such a ban, there was no way the BJD could complain after the results of the first round stunned it. Nor could the State Election Commission (SEC) impose any such ban midway through the election without inviting the charge of working at the behest of the ruling party.
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It will, however, be foolish on the part of the BJD to attribute its falling stock to the absence of a ban on broadcast of the results, though it may have helped narrow down the margin between itself and the BJP somewhat. The causes of BJD’s below-par show are entirely different and should not be too difficult to ascertain if the party is willing to do an honest, hard-nosed introspection. But so far, there are no indications that it is keen to undertake any such exercise. Instead, there is an attempt to brazen it out through planted stories in the media claiming that while it may not have done as well in Zilla Parishad elections as it was expected to, it has won an overwhelming majority of ward member, sarpanch and samiti member posts, secure in the knowledge that it is a claim that it does not have to prove – nor can other parties disprove – since elections for these posts are not held on party basis! In resorting to this falsehood, the BJD would only be harming itself. Fortunately for it, it has time on its hands – the next Assembly elections are at least two years away – to recover lost ground and get back its preeminent position in the politics of the state. But then a cure is possible only when the patient admits s/he has a problem and goes to the doctor for a diagnosis. If there is no treatment or medicines are administered to a patient without a proper diagnosis, the disease is bound to get worse. The sooner the BJD realizes this the better it would be for it.
A section of the ruling party has already identified one of the many reasons for its sub-par performance: Babu Raj. For all their faults, politicians can never really be substituted by bureaucrats because they are the people who have their ear to the ground. In sidelining leaders of his party and depending on Babus, the BJD supremo has shut himself off from the public mood. Hired crowds at his public appearances may keep alive the illusion of popularity and invincibility, but they cannot forewarn you when the ground begins to slip away from beneath your feet. That is where the quintessential grassroots level politician with his/her finger on the pulse of the people comes in.
For a start, Naveen can shun his over-dependence on a few trusted bureaucrats and consult party leaders on what went wrong in the panchayat elections and then find a remedy to reverse the slide. Bureaucrats, after all, have a vested interest in painting a rosy picture before the supreme leader while it is the ruling party politicians, who have to account for the acts of their government and face the wrath of the people when things go wrong, who can be trusted to do some plain speaking.
While this in itself may not be enough for the BJD to get back to its winning ways, it would certainly be a good beginning.