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Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: As the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) celebrates its 23rd foundation day there is no denying its tremendous success as a regional party. It has an enviable electoral record which no other regional outfit in the history of the state can match. With the right kind of strategy and a generous dose of luck, it has clicked at the hustings consistently.

The element of luck has been visible in the mind-boggling failure of Opposition to cash in on the mistakes of BJD and its government and to build up credible popular movements on issues of importance. For some strange reason, the Opposition has squandered away almost every opportunity that came its way, triggering speculation about a ‘ deal .’

When the mining scam broke, Congress, which was then the main opposition party, had the golden opportunity to corner the Naveen Patnaik-led government. But somehow it failed to build up a strong enough campaign to rattle the government which got off the hook rather easily.

The chit fund scandal was an equally big opportunity to put the incumbent regime on the mat. With CBI probing the scam BJD leaders, some of whom were arrested, appeared to be running scared. But neither the Congress nor the BJP could do enough to put the Patnaik government in the dock convincingly. It once again escaped mostly unscathed by raising the bogey of a witch hunt by the central agency. Later, the probe slowed down with BJD’s ties with the BJP-led NDA government improving. It was part strategy and part luck.

This, however, is not to suggest that BJD has only been riding its luck. The party government has performed well, much better compared to some Congress governments in the past. It has rolled out a number of pro-poor schemes that have endeared it to the masses, especially that section of the population which actually turns up at the polling booths to exercise its franchise.

Though these schemes, dubbed political stunts by the Opposition, have been eroding the state exchequer consistently economically Odisha still fares much better than many other Indian states. Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik should be given due credit for running his government’s welfare programmes despite financial crunch.

Economic pressure, though, has forced him to make some compromises and extend a hand of friendship towards Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The need is mutual. While Odisha needs generous funds from the Centre to keep its welfare schemes going Modi’s NDA needs BJD’s support in the parliament, especially in the Rajya where it still does not have the right numbers.

Patnaik, of late, has faced a lot of criticism for extending support to the Centre on controversial issues like dilution of article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). On the later issue, he has been accused of siding with the BJP at the risk of diluting his party’s secular credentials. Whether BJD’s secular image has actually been compromised by such decisions remains a matter of debate but what is beyond dispute is that Patnaik has been able to secure the interests of his state by resorting to what has rightly been described some political observers as pragmatic politics.

(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)

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