Sandeep Sahu

The season of fence-sitting is over. And the season of fence-jumping is on us in right earnest. Naba Das, the Jharsuguda strongman, was the first off the blocks and set the ball rolling by deserting the party that he has been associated with all his life on Wednesday and making it clear that he would be soon joining the party that he had defeated without much difficulty in the last election at a time when it was sweeping the state.

But what is noteworthy about his desertion from the Congress to the BJD is the reason he has cited for his fence-jumping. Discarding the time-tested ploy of ranting against the leadership of the present party to explain away the desertion, the Jharsuguda MLA has chosen to blame it on the people. “The people and voters of my area want that I should contest the next election in 2019 from BJD as they want our area should develop and I should join hands with Sj. Naveen Patnaik, The Hon’ble Chief Minister, Odisha,” he said in his resignation letter addressed to Congress President Rahul Gandhi even as he asserted that he had no complain (sic) against PCC President Niranjan Patnaik with whom he has ‘very cordial relation’!

It may be a worthwhile exercise to speculate on how exactly did the people of Jharsuguda convey to him what they want? In person or through letter/phone/WhatApp/mail? How many of the ‘people and voters’ in Jharsuguda Assembly constituency did he consult? Did he also consult those who did not vote for him last time round or just those who voted for him? Either way, how did he find out who voted for whom and who did not? Did he also consult those who will be voting for the first time in 2019? Did he conduct some kind of a referendum to find out what the ‘people want’? Did all the people in his constituency want him to join the BJD or some opposed it too, forcing him to go by the majority decision? Why did his ‘people’ wait for four and a half years and choose to advise him to quit from the Congress just weeks ahead of the elections? And last but not the least, if he could have a cancer hospital and an airport for Jharsuguda while in the Opposition, where was the need to join the BJD to ensure its ‘development’?

The utterances of his party colleague from the neighbouring Sundargarh constituency, Jogesh Singh, over the last 48 hours suggests that this novel explanation of ‘people’s wish’ is not something that Naba Das has invented, but a well thought out strategy developed in consultation with their new masters. The new strategy serves two purposes. First, it breaks the monotony and adds some much needed novelty to what in essence is an act of sheer opportunism. Second, it creates in the minds of the electorate an impression that the craze for Naveen Patnaik has reached even those constituencies where the people did not vote for him in 2014. It would be interesting to watch what excuse does Prakash Behera, the Salepur MLA, comes up with if and when he leaves the Congress and jumps unto the BJD bandwagon, as he is expected to do.

For now, all roads lead to Naveen Nivas – and no surprises there. Even after four successive terms, there are no real signs of any real public disenchantment with Naveen though there are areas where the ruling party MLAs have lost the trust of the people. With the Congress still in the process of putting its house in order and the BJP having all but conceded defeat, there is no real challenger in sight as Naveen braces for an unprecedented fifth consecutive term. Thus, it is only natural for those from other parties in search of power and pelf to make a beeline for the ruling party. They must have realized that there is no hope of a ministerial berth or some other position of power if they stay on in their present party. Hence, it makes sound political sense to switch camps to where the lucre is.

As for the BJD, it has been very careful in selecting who to let in. The desertions, actual and likely, from the Congress show it has zeroed in on those Assembly constituencies where it feels it would be difficult to win. Prakash Behera is actually an odd man out. My gut political feeling tells me that the vast majority of inductions form other parties would take place in south and western Odisha there the BJD did not fare as well as it did in its stronghold of coastal Odisha. Those in its bastion who have lost the trust of the people would, in all likelihood, be replaced by more acceptable faces from within the ruling party.

While the migration season has begun with leaders flocking to the BJD, the process of reverse migration would begin when the elections are nearer as those in BJD who realize they won’t be nominated/renominated from their constituency seek greener pastures elsewhere.

And trust my word: we are going to hear this new term ‘people’s wish’ more and more as the desertion season hots up.

(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)