Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

With the 24-year-old BJD bastion in Odisha, once considered impregnable, crumbling like a pack of cards, the party seems to have been divided into two sections. While one is still standing by party supremo Naveen Patnaik, the other is still having allegiance to his close aide VK Pandian. 

The bureaucrat-turned-politician VK Pandian has gone incommunicado since June 4 when the 2024 general elections’ results were out. 

Meanwhile, Naveen Patnaik held meetings with his winning and losing candidates and offered pieces of advice to them. While it is being discussed why he didn’t do this before the elections and why Pandian was always there with him like a shadow, some senior leaders opened up and ascribed such mismanagement to the poll debacle. 

Senior Leaders' Take

“One of the main reasons why the party tasted failure is to keep senior leaders away from the election affair,” observed senior BJD leader Sashi Bhushan Behera. 

“You (media) would think that he (Naveen Patnaik) can’t do anything by himself. Now, you have been convinced that he can do anything even without VK Pandian,” said senior BJD leader Prafulla Samal. 

Questions Over Pandian's Role

Now questions are being raised about the whereabouts of Pandian, whose company with the party was considered at this crucial situation.

Yesterday, the party clarified that Pandian had gone to Delhi. At a time when the party drew blank in Lok Sabha, what is the urgency that prompted him to leave for Delhi, questioned some leaders.

Some are also apprehensive that it's a plan by Pandian's followers to shield him from the criticisms.

Further questions are also being raised if Naveen can talk with the leaders of the party and guide them, then why Pandian was always present with him? Whether it was happening with Naveen's consent or someone else was forcing him?

BJD's organisational secretary Pranab Prakash Das said, "Nobody except the Chief Minister led from the front. It is only the CM's prerogative whom to keep and whom to leave."

"Kartik Sir (VK Pandian) was even there in 2018. But, nobody was feeling like this then. Some people will always say it because it is their habit and we don't care about it. The truth will always prevail and our team will put in the same effort as before," said BJD spokesperson Lenin Mohanty.

Political Experts' Take

As per political experts, Pandian has created a group inside the BJD.

"It is true that Pandian has created a group inside the party and they are considering Pandian as their God. Their source of power was Pandian himself. I think the main fault lies with the senior leaders of the party. They must have had the knowledge that people don't like Pandian's dominance. Had they appraised the CM about the development, this kind of situation would not have occurred," said senior journalist Sandeep Sahu.

While the senior leaders have gradually started opening up about the reasons behind the 2024 poll debacle, another group within the party is trying to hide the faults of Pandian. It remains to be seen what is the way forward for the regional party.

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