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Column: The Challenge of Evolving A Credible Leadership

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The newly anointed Odisha BJP president, Samir Mohanty is an amiable and articulate leader with many friends in the media. Practical and down to earth he has the reputation of being a good organiser while his commitment to the party has never been in doubt. All these are important attributes that would help him strengthen the party at a time when it is gearing up to take on the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) with a resolve to replace it as the state’s ruling party in 2024.

The fact that Mohanty hails from the state’s coastal belt is important. With his election, the party has sought to send out a message that it is keen to expand its footprint on the coast which holds the key to the portals of power in Bhubaneswar. The BJP, which has succeeded in snatching the main opposition party tag from the Congress, did reasonably well in the coastal belt in the last elections winning five assembly seats and two key Lok Sabha seats.

The party’s coastal push seems to be part of a well thought out a strategy. In April 2017 the BJP had chosen Odisha’s capital city to hold its national executive with top leaders of the party including Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his lieutenant-in-chief, Amit Shah addressing the delegates. A year later Modi addressed a massive rally at Cuttack, the erstwhile capital of the state and the gateway to the coast while presenting his government’s report card on the completion of his fourth year in office.

Mohanty’s elevation to the top post in the state BJP could be an attempt to carry forward that strategy with a growing realisation within the party that it cannot have a realistic hope of capturing power in the state without establishing a firm grip on the politically sensitive coastal belt. But this is easier said than done for there is no denying the fact that the party faces an acute shortage of credible leaders in the coastal belt where the BJD has been ruling the roost for the last two decades.

The truth is that BJP lacks credible and charismatic leadership even at the state level. While it has very few leaders with a pan Odisha image and appeals it cannot boast of a single leader who can match the charisma of BJD supremo and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. Mohanty, who is popular in the party circles because of his simple and hands-on approach to issues, himself cannot be accused of possessing any charisma. His utility lies in being a workhorse but the party today needs inspiring leaders.

The biggest challenge for Mohanty will be identifying such leaders and making the best possible use of their talent in the larger interest of the party. Equally important for him would be not to allow himself to be swayed by seniors who might try to impose their will on him. While seeking advice and guidance from seniors he must ensure that he takes decisions based on consensus. This will help him keep the menace of factionalism at bay.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the 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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