Pradeep Pattanayak

With the State unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporting the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s bandh call in 14 districts over the Sambalpur violence and the Biju Janata Dal taking out a peace rally for the same, it is believed that the seeds of religion-based politics are being sown in Odisha. 

Protesting against the Sambalpur violence, the VHP observed bandh in 14 districts of the State on Wednesday. The bandh was supported by the BJP. On the other hand, the BJD took out a peace rally, protesting against what happened in Sambalpur during Hanuman Jayanti. 

State BJP President Manmohan Samal, who accused the BJD of doing appeasement politics yesterday, targeted the conch party over the rally. 

“Do they (BJD) understand what religious means? It is meaningless to take out a peace rally after precipitating the clash. If you are in the government, why violence should occur,” said Samal. 

On the other hand, the BJD said religion shouldn’t be used to gain political mileage. 

“Stringent actions have been taken against those involved in the violence. All should condemn those who tweet with a view to earn political mileage. Religion should never be used for political mileage,” said BJD Vice President, Debi Prasad Mishra. 

It is alleged that the BJD, apprehensive of the BJP’s Hindutva agenda and polarization of voters, has long been playing the soft Hindutva card. Recently, the BJD leaders launched ‘Jay Jagannath’ campaign by uploading videos of themselves chanting ‘Jay Jagannath’ on social media platforms.  

Prior to this, the BJD government took steps to develop religious places and shrines including the Jagannath Temple in Puri, the Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar, and the Samaleswari Temple in Sambalpur. 

In another instance corroborating the ruling party’s alleged inclination towards this trend, a few days ago, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the cowshed “Jamukoli Goshala’ at Jatni and fed the cows. 

According to political analysts, politics and religion are interconnected. 

“There is no denying that politics and religion are correlated. It is common to find in politics that the entire picture changes even five days ahead of polls. So everything depends on what issues the political parties are taking up and how the people are accepting them,” said senior journalist, Jatindra Das. 

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