Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The victory of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate in Patkura has re-affirmed the party’s political supremacy in the state. Though the margin of win should have been higher going by the claims BJD leaders had made during the course of campaigning it was satisfying nonetheless.

While BJD’s tally in the state assembly has gone upto 113 with this victory which comes as yet another proof of party supremo and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s near invincibility the outcome in Patkura is bound to trigger speculation about the political future of veteran Bijay Mohapatra who put up a brave fight.

It is to the credit of Mohapatra that he notched up more than 78000 votes in a battle where he was, for all practical purposes, pitted against the chief minister himself. The ruling party had pulled out all stops to win Patkura where ministers and BJD MLAs camped for days together. The BJP has also made allegations of misuse of government machinery.

For those who have been studying Odisha politics closely Patkura was Naveen versus Mohapatra. The two leaders who love to hate each other have a long history of mutual animosity. Mohapatra, who won the Patkura seat four times between 1980 and 1995, was one of the founding members of BJD and also its political affairs committee chairperson.

But his ambitions soon clashed with the interests of Patnaik and he was denied a party ticket to contest from Patkura at the last minute in 2000. The veteran did not even have time to file nomination as an independent from the constituency. Ever since he has not been elected to the state assembly.

Speculation over Mohapatra’s political future is only natural considering that age, too, is not on his side. By the time the next elections arrive it is quite possible that younger leaders in the BJP would be staking a claim to the Patkura seat. Besides it is impossible to predict at this juncture how things would shape up for him within the BJP with which he has had a love- hate relationship.

Mohapatra, who had joined the BJP in 2009 along with his friend and former union minister, Dilip Ray, started having problems with senior leaders of the party after an initial period of bonhomie. He developed serious differences with union minister, Dharendra Pradhan on crucial issues.

Ray, too, had problems with the BJP leadership which he accused of not keeping Prime Minister’s election promise of building the second bridge over river Brahmani in his constituency of Rourkela and failing to convert the Ispat General Hospital in the steel city into a super-speciality hospital and medical college.

While Ray has since walked out of the BJP Mohapatra was wooed back by the party on the eve of the elections and given the ticket from Patkura where elections had to be postponed following the death of BJD candidate, Bed Prakash Agarwal. Successive defeats and advancing age are bound to raise a question mark over Mohapatra’s career though his supporters fervently hope that he bounces back.

(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.)