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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • In fact, in the year 2017, the ruling BJD displayed the histrionics of tactics sans strategies. In the end, all that - the Kalash Yatra, stoning of Central Ministers at Bargarh, egging senior BJP leaders et al - ended as noise and BJD tasted an all-around defeat at the hands of BJP.

Former Chinese General, military strategist, writer and philosopher had once whispered very big. He had said, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat." 

The results of the 2022 Panchayat elections in Odisha have amplified the quintessence of the great General's thought in the State. 

When the Naveen Patnaik -led ruling BJD is rich in political strategies and tactics, the Opposition BJP and Congress have shown the signs of tactics (Uproar in State Assembly), sans strategies. The result is now in the public domain.

Here is a case study of 2017 Panchayat Elections.

Take the case of BJP - the party that is in power at the Centre now. For which, it can be considered as one which has all resources at command to take on the BJD might. 

When BJD High On Tactics

In fact, in the year 2017, the ruling BJD displayed the histrionics of tactics sans strategies. In the end, all that - the Kalash Yatra, stoning of Central Ministers at Bargarh, egging senior BJP leaders et al - ended as noise and BJD tasted an all-around defeat at the hands of BJP.

On the contrary, BJP had laid a strategy to corner BJD in the 2017 Panchayat polls. Not before 90-days, but before a full year. Odisha's date with Panchayat elections was always in the month of February.

Significantly, under the charge of the then Union Petroleum Minister and current HRD minister Dharmendra Pradhan, the saffron party has hatched out a strategy to put a spoke in the ruling BJD's speeding wheel.

As per the plans in sync with central BJP's look east policy, the State BJP had arranged two rallies of PM Narendra Modi in 2016 itself, when the rural polls were scheduled in 2017.

On Feb 21, 2016, PM Narendra Modi addressed a huge Kisan (Farmers) rally in Bargarh. The choice of the place had a strategy behind it - the district (Bargarh) was hit by the worst drought in 2015 and was followed by a pest (chakada) attack that had triggered largescale farmer suicides there.  

Moreover, the party ground workers were then hopping village to village marketing the PMFBY (PM Fasal Bima Yojana), as the farmers in the district were badly lost their crop and were neck-deep in debt. 

In contrast, the ruling BJD was then very brazen. They pooh-poohed the farmer suicides. Even, in the State Assembly, the then Agriculture Minister blamed the untimely deaths on 'family problems and drinking'.

Instead of solving the issues of people/farmers, they made full use of tactics - which otherwise may be termed as theatrics - like targeting/attacking BJP leaders and even the Central Minister. Their official agenda then was "We will not allow the Central BJP leaders to enter our districts."  

The Central Ministers of the stature of late Manohar Parrikar had visited Odisha and challenged BJD to stop him. "I am the Defence Minister of India," Parrikar warned.

Again In June 2016, PM Modi Addressed another huge rally in Balasore. The choice of place by the BJP and the win in the 2017 Panchayat polls had unravelled BJP's meticulous strategy. The Odisha BJP had planned two rallies of PM Narendra Modi - one western Odisha and the other in north Odisha.

While PM Narendra Modi didn't launch any diatribe against the ruling BJD or CM Naveen Patnaik, Modi kept on touching the raw nerve of Odisha. In both the meetings, PM was heard saying, 

•    "Why the poverty graph in Odisha lingers on for decades?"

•    "Lord Jagannath has blessed mine and Paani (water) to Odisha, how come then the farmers in the State are facing crop loss due to water paucity?"

•    PM had even said, "Odisha Ka Jawan Ab Jaag Gaya hai - The youths in Odisha are now on alert mode."

However, like icing on the cake, the Odisha BJP went for an artillery attack on BJD in November 2016.

Nov 2016: The country had been facing the de-monetization realities. CM Naveen Patnaik had, in fact, welcomed the move at first, but later ridiculed the move as a hasty one.

On Nov 25, the then BJP President Amit Shah landed at Bhubaneswar and addressed a massive rally, where he fired at CM Naveen Patnaik from all cylinders.

Amit Shah addressed the BJP workers, "Parivartan Ke Akrosh (Instill the anger within to bring the change (means defeat BJD) ke saath boliye Bhart Mata ki Jai." Shah then raised the BSP (Bijli,Sadak Paani) gaps in BJD ruled Odisha.   

When the results of 2017 Panchayat polls came, BJP stunned BJD in western and northern Odisha. The party had even made inroads in some coastal districts - Kendrapada, Jagatsighpur, Puri, Khordha etc. 

It had been the eureka moments for BJP. The saffron party went on to secure 297 seats single-handedly for the first time ever at the grassroot level in Odisha.

2019 Elections

After the stupendous win in 2017, came the 2019 general elections. With PM Modi being pitted directly against CM Naveen Patnaik, and facing a bumpy road, CM Patnaik was out on a road voyage campaigning for the party. 

The BJD in 2019 elections, chastised by the 2017 mistakes, put out a strategy and tactics. The strategy the ruling BJD played out was Naveen Versus Whom? 

As a result, BJD won the Assembly Elections convincingly.  

However, the strategy of Naveen Vs Whom was into pieces as in the Lok Sabha Election - voters read it as Naveen Vs Modi.  The outcome was BJP won 8 Lok Sabha seats and took BJD to the wire in Puri. 

The analysis of 2019 election results puts all in capital letters - Odisha BJP minus Modi is equal to zero.

The Key Takeaway

Data with ADR shows that BJD splurged a massive Rs 193.73 cr in 2019 polls - both Lok Sabha and State Assembly - to emerge not only as the top spender among 44 regional parties but had also been the third-largest spender (after two national parties -BJP and Congress) in the country.

Moreover, it deployed strategy and tactics, still, it couldn't win the LS seats.

All this analysis boils down to one big thing. To win an election, especially against a formidable rival like Naveen Patnaik, a party has to put in place three cardinal things - strategy, tactics and leadership.

Ironically, both BJP and Congress, exactly lack here. The outcome is they remain as cameo parties in the State. The defeat in 2022 is seen as the continuation of that political episode in Odisha.

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