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Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: There is no dearth of political analysts who believe that chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has been winning elections by default, implying that the Opposition is either too weak or lacks the stomach for a fight. It is easy for such an impression to gain ground as Patnaik seems to have made a habit of winning and winning with consummate ease.

Following his latest election victory, which was just as comprehensive and convincing as the others before it, he has joined the super exclusive club of chief ministers to have won five back to back elections. It is a huge achievement by any yardstick. In Odisha he is the only one to have accomplished this feat.

But to attribute this stupendous achievement solely to the absence of opposition is not only unjust but also factually incorrect. While there is no denying the fact that major opposition parties in Odisha have failed to throw up a credible challenge to Patnaik so far they cannot be accused of not having tried.

Both Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party have done their best to unseat Patnaik, bringing up charges against him and building up campaigns against his government. In the process they have also been successful in exposing some major scandals like the multi-crore mining and chit fund scams. Yet they have not been able to dent Patnaik’s popularity in any significant manner.

The failure of the opposition on this front has been mainly on account of its own credibility crisis. While in the case of the Congress its past continues to haunt the party with people not willing to put their trust in its leaders, the saffron party suffers from a dearth of charismatic leaders in its ranks. It does not have a single leader to match Patnaik’s mojo.

Besides, the chief minister, who has been quick to learn the political ropes, has always been a step ahead of his rivals in terms of strategy. While he has frustrated all efforts by the Congress and the BJP to pin him down on the issue of corruption by acting swiftly against his own party leaders accused of wrongdoing he has sought to make people part of his anti-corruption drive by seeking their feedback on the kind of treatment they are getting in hospitals and police stations. Soon other departments of the government may face similar scrutiny.

While it is too early to comment on the success of the drive it has won him popular approbation for at least making an attempt to cleanse the system. Critics have slammed the move as superficial and described it as a clever ruse to hide the flaws in governance, a smokescreen to turn away popular attention from the ‘real’ issues like spiraling crime and growing unemployment.

Critics are entitled to their opinion but skepticism turns into a diminutive virtue when it borders on cynicism. Even if one accepts the criticism being leveled against the latest drive of the chief minister to make the government more transparent and people-friendly can one deny that it will still do some good. At least a message has gone to corrupt officials at various levels that they are being watched and may get caught sooner or later. This fear is enough to make them behave.

The other reason why Patnaik has been winning elections almost effortlessly is that he has earned people’s trust through his performance that is best summed up by the success of his many welfare schemes.Allegations of irregularities and favoritism notwithstanding the fruits of these measures have percolated down to the grassroots level in most cases. It is these things that make up his credentials as a politician. It would, thus, be wrong to attribute his electoral success only to a weak opposition.

(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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