With the Biju Janata Dal giving ministerial berths to seven of its MLAs representing from Western Odisha, it is being assumed that the BJD is progressing with a strategy to checkmate the Bharatiya Janata Party in the next general elections.
In Western Odisha, the Saffron party enjoys a strong base. In 2019 Lok Sabha election, the party had won all five Lok Sabha seats and eight Legislative Assembly constituencies. The Western Odisha is also in Congress’ focus.
In the newly-formed cabinet, as many as seven MLAs from the Western Odisha have been given important ministerial berths. These newly-appointed ministers are Niranjan Pujari, Pradeep Amat, Naba Das, Tukuni Sahu, Rohit Pujari, Rajendra Dholakia and Rita Sahu. They apart, the post of Deputy Chief Whip has also gone to Western Odisha. The party has sent Niranjan Bisi to Rajya Sabha, earlier it had sent Sujit Kumar.
Most importantly, Chief Minister and party Supremo Naveen Patnaik himself had contested from Bijepur Assembly Constituency.
“Since Western Odisha shares border with Chhattisgarh, the BJP is enjoying a certain clout there. So the ruling party is taking steps to counter the BJP there,” said Planning and Convergence Minister Rajendra Dholakia.
“The BJD is trying its level best to break the progress of BJP in Western Odisha. But the people of Western Odisha have already measured the rule of BJD’s 23 years. The people of Western Odisha will continue to support the party.
In this regard, OPCC President Sarat Pattanayak said, “The party (BJD) is doing politics for votes, not for development.”
At the same time, it is also being discussed that senior leaders of Western Odisha have been given a short shrift.
For example, the families of senior leaders Anang Uday Singh Deo and Prasanna Acharya are no longer accorded the importance once they used to enjoy. They apart, two known faces like Kalikesh Narayan Sigh Deo and Puspendra Singh Deo, who unsuccessfully contested from Bolangir and Kalahandi Lok Sabha seats respectively have not been rehabilitated.
Similarly, despite being a two-time MLA, Debesh Acharya has also not been given any position. While none from Sundargarh district have been made minister, MLAs Sarada Nayak and Subrat Tarai have also been kept out of the Cabinet.
“There are some leaders who played key roles in finding the BJD party, have been reportedly neglected. They are not getting as much importance as they should. For this, they should also make a self assessment,” observed senior journalist Pramod Pattanayak.
Senior journalist Sandeep Mishra said, “If the BJP does well in the coming election, then the BJD may not get its desired result in both Lok Sabha and Assembly election. For this reasons, the BJD, I think, is giving importance to Western Odisha.”
It is to be seen how the strategies will pan out in 2024 big show.