Column: A Crown of Thorns?
By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: There is growing speculation in the media over who will be the next president of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Odisha. Names are being bandied about and their chances being discussed. The possibility of incumbent president, Basant Panda, who is now a Lok Sabha member, getting a fresh term is also not being ruled out.
But more important than who takes over the reins of the party in the state is what kind of responsibility is going to fall on his shoulders. Given the present political scenario, the head that wears the crown of state party chief is certainly not going to lie easy. It is going to be an extremely challenging job, a kind of poisoned chalice.
For one thing, BJP has emerged as the main opposition party in the state in the wake of last elections there will be high expectations from the new party head. For another, his rivals would not hesitate to haul him over the coals for the slightest error of judgement as the party aspires to form a government in Odisha in 2024.
The problem is it has set itself the goal of capturing power without the necessary groundwork. The BJP, to be honest, neither has the requisite organisational strength nor the necessary support base to be able to form a government in the state in the next five years. The organisational weakness of the party was thoroughly exposed in the recent elections when BJP candidates in several constituencies struggled to find enough workers to manage the booths.
On the other hand, its support base even in its traditional strongholds of western Odisha seems to have shrunk with the party being seen as having compromised on crucial issues like poverty and under-development of the region when it was in power in the state with Biju Janata Dal (BJD). A chunk of voters, who once supported it wholeheartedly, now appear disillusioned as the BJP during the days of coalition government even accepted a toothless development council for western Odisha without so much as a semblance of protest.
The party started making amends on this score but only after it was brought to the ground with a thud in the 2009 elections which it contested on its own following the breakdown of its alliance with BJD. Reduced to a single digit in the state assembly it sought to retrieve the ground it had lost in western Odisha by once again highlighting the poverty and backwardness of the region but the campaign failed to carry conviction with the people as people were not willing to trust its leaders.
While thus being hamstrung in the area which is supposed to be its stronghold it is also struggling to gain a foothold in the coastal belt. The few seats that it managed to win on the coast this time was mainly on account of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s popularity rather than BJP’s organisational strength in the state or the appeal of its local leaders.
The new BJP president will have to take these realities into account if he wishes to chalk out an effective strategy to bring the party closer to power in the state. Otherwise, BJP’s hopes of forming a government in Odisha would remain a chimera.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)