Sandeep Sahu

The notification for the bypoll in Bijepur is yet to be issued by the Election Commission (EC). But in a feat unparalleled in the annals of Odisha politics, the little known Assembly constituency in Bargarh district has dominated the political discourse in the state for close to three months now. In the process, it has also given us a glimpse of the course politics is going to take in the days to come.

The first big political development, of course, came when Rita Sahu, the widow of sitting Congress MLA from Bijepur Subal Sahu, joined the BJD soon after the death of her husband on August 22 and was promptly named the ruling party candidate for the by-election by party supremo Naveen Patnaik. This started a chain reaction that saw former BJD MLA from Bijepur Ashok Panigrahi join the BJP after his hopes of being nominated by the BJD for the bypoll were rudely dashed. Though the BJP is yet to formally name him, it is public knowledge that Panigrahi is certain to be the party candidate for the Bijepur bypoll. Panigrahi’s entry into BJP left Narayan Sahu, the party’s Bargarh unit president and an aspirant for a ticket himself, bitter and he made it known to the party leadership in no uncertain terms. Not only did he miss the function where Panigrahi was inducted into the BJP in the presence of Union Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, he also asked to be relieved of his post of district unit chief of the party. The half-hearted reconciliation effort by the BJP state leadership obviously did not make much headway. The inevitable happened and Sahu joined the BJD on Tuesday, completing the circle of desertions in the process. [How the Congress must be ruing the fact that it is missing out on the fun though it held the seat for three consecutive terms!]

Bijepur may well have set the pattern for politics in the state in the days ahead. From now on, poaching is going to be the order of the day. Not that the phenomenon was entirely unknown earlier. One just has to recall the poaching of Bhupinder Singh, the then Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and a trenchant critic of the Naveen Patnaik government, by the BJD on the eve of the 2014 elections. He was among several leaders from the Opposition ranks poached by the ruling party in the run up to the election. But what is new is the phenomenon of counter poaching by other parties – primarily the BJP, which is being seen as the main opposition in the state for the first time ever. With the Narendra Modi government firmly in the saddle at the Centre and generous inflow of money into the state unit’s coffers, the party feels it is now in a position to give back as good as it gets vis-a-vis the BJD. It’s a measure of the bad days that have fallen on the Congress that it has mostly been a one-way traffic in its case. But trust the party to join the poaching game with gusto if and when things look up for it.  

Old notions like loyalty to a party, a leader or an ideology have now been well and truly buried in the quicksand of unadulterated selfish interest and vaulting personal ambition. There was a time when Congressmen took great pride in their “Once a Congressman, always a Congressman” rhetoric. But as the departure of Bhupinder Singh and several others has shown, it is a thing of the past. [At the national level, there is no better proof of the withering away of the Congress ‘gene’ than former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna quitting the Congress and joining the BJP at the ripe old age of 85!]

Though the BJD cannot boast of the same antiquity as the Congress, many of its workers at the ground level are, in fact, those who followed the late Biju Patnaik – after whom the party has been named - all their life. But neither the name of Biju nor the advantages of being in the ruling party has been a strong enough reason for the disgruntled lot to stay put in the party. The denial of a ticket, a party post or a government sinecure is now ground enough to quit the party as long as the other party offers a ‘better deal’.

As for the BJP, it has travelled the farthest from the ideological moorings that marked its politics for so long. In its desperation to spread its wings into hitherto uncharted territory, it has shunned all ideological pretensions and proved that it can play the realpolitik game as well – may be even better – than others. No one – whether s/he believes in the party’s ‘core ideology’ or not - is an untouchable for the BJP as long as his/her entry can bring dividends for the party.

Like the Congress of yore, the Left parties too once took great pride in the ideological moorings of their members. Till a few years ago, Communist party members seldom left their parties or admitted leaders of bourgeoisie parties. Not anymore. After Mamata Banerjee came to power, Communists in West Bengal have shown that they don’t want to be left behind when it comes to sharing the fruits of power. Closer home, the entry of the likes of former Communist Krushna Nayak (recently arrested by the police from Dehradun for the murder of Chhatrapur BJD councillor Laxmidutta Pradhan) into the BJP of all parties shows that the lines dividing ideologies have not only been blurred, but have been completely obliterated!

This, I am afraid, is going to be the pattern in the future. Parties are going to woo anyone from any party who they think can bring dividends. On their part, leaders too are going to sell themselves to the highest bidder – loyalty to party, leader and ideology be damned!

OTV News is now on Whatsapp

Join and get latest news update delivered to you via whatsapp

Join Now