Himansu Shekhar Rout

Ahead of the 2024 elections, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) which is currently undertaking its Janasampark Padayadra seems to have resorted to a new tactic in announcing the names of the party’s probable candidates for the Assembly election.

A couple of instances have recently come to the fore in north Odisha. However, such a way of announcing the names as candidates has left some senior party leaders and legislators sullen and infuriated.

As per reports, during a public contact programme held in Dhamnagar of Bhadrak district recently, former MLA Muktikant Mandal dropped broad hints about Sanjay Das, an aspiring BJD leader, to lead this Assembly segment in the days to come. 

While introducing Das to people and party workers, Mandal announced, “The one who is going to be the 11th legislator for the soil of Dhamnagar is none other than Sanjay Das. He will take the baton of leadership here in the days to come.”

A similar incident was reported from the Basta constituency of Balasore yesterday while the party was conducting the padayatra at Mukulishi Chandan Ground. What is most surprising was that Nityananda Sahu, who represents the Basta segment, was conspicuous in his absence at the programme held just 200 metres away from his residence. BJD’s district observer Pratap Deb was at the meeting attended by many other senior party leaders like former MP Rabindra Jena. 

Minister & party leader, Ashwini Patra, while addressing the party workers from the dais, announced, "Subasini Jena (wife of former MP Rabindra Jena) is among us. Subasini Jena will assume leadership of Basta in the coming days.”  

During the padayatra, Patra made it amply clear that Nityananda will certainly not be picked as MLA candidate for the Basta seat. This has come as a rude shock for many leaders aspiring for a party ticket while others speculated that such indirect announcements of candidate names could be the party’s strategy to silence the aspirants.

As for the announcement, MLA Nityanada Sahu said, "Usually, when the election comes close, party president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announces the names of the party candidates. I wonder how they could announce the name of Jena at the padayatra. I could not attend the meeting due to illness.”

However, soon after this development, supporters of Sahu fumed. Anguished over such an announcement, Kartik Nayak, a local BJD leader, said, "We were not invited to the meeting. By announcing the name of the candidate for Basta, what they are trying to prove.  Are they above the party president Naveen Patnaik? In the coming days, such development will create all kinds of mess.” 
Nayak’s outburst has pointed to the internal fissure in the ruling party.

On the other hand, party leaders are reportedly divided over the padayatra in some pockets of Jagatsinghpur and Angul districts.

Recently, MLA Raghunandan Das was seen taking part in a padayatra in the Balikuda-Erasama Assembly segment while another parallel padayatra was led by BJD’s youth leader Sanjib Biswal, thus exposing the internal factionalism in the ruling party. 
The same is the situation at Athamalik constituency where BJD leader Nalini Pradhan has started a public contact programme at different places while MLA Ramesh Chandra Sai has been leading a parallel padayatra in the area.

Political observers are keeping a close watch on how much the ruling party will gain in the 2024 polls due to its ‘new tactic’ amid growing internal squabble and parallel padayatras.