Op-Ed: Fire and brimstone amounting to nothing!

What next for Srikant Jena? Of the two other major parties in Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is unlikely to open its doors for the man who has just been shown the door by the Congress given what he has done in the past to the man in whose name the BJD has been founded and what he has said in the recent past about the man who heads the party. Nor is the BJP likely to roll out the red carpet for him because of the nature of politics he has done all his life. That leaves the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as the only viable option for him because it goes well with the social justice plank that he has weaved his whole politics around of late. But wily politician that he is, Jena knows only too well that there is not much political or electoral dividend to be had in the party given its current standing in the state. He is thus unlikely to latch on to the apron strings of Behenji.

Unfortunately for Jena, no tears would be shed at his unceremonious exit from the Congress nor is any mass exodus of his supporters likely to follow because he doesn’t have many in the first place. Just about the only man who, for reasons known only to himself, had chosen to cast his lot with the former Union minister has also been expelled from the party. Thus, Jena now joins the steadily lengthening list of leaders without a party as Odisha braces for simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in a few months’ time. While the others in the list – many of them his erstwhile colleagues – may yet join some political party and even get together to form one of their own before the elections, it is now reasonably clear that Jena would remain a loose cannon firing away in all directions and against all and sundry without hurting anyone grievously.

At his press conference on Sunday morning, however, Jena sought to create the exact opposite impression by bombastically promising to come up with some startling revelation on January 25, the day Rahul is scheduled to visit the state, after which the Congress President would not be able to ‘show his face’ to the country. He dropped enough hints to suggest that the revelation would be about an alleged Congress-BJD, Rahul-Naveen secret pact. But so low is his political credibility that it is bound to be dismissed as an empty boast – akin to the ‘brahmastra’ that the late Pyari Mohan Mohapatra promised to deliver but never did – aimed at ensuring that he stays politically relevant.

Though his expulsion appeared to come like a bolt from the blue, the countdown for his departure had started since the day he was divested of his post of chairman of the party’s manifesto committee. It was the high command’s way of asking him to desist from his no-holds-barred tirade against Niranjan Patnaik virtually since the day he took over as PCC chief. But far from backing off, Jena actually sharpened his attack on Patnaik, making his continuation highly untenable at a time when the party is showing signs of revival. Having realized that his folly of tolerating factionalism and dissidence in the past had cost the party dearly, Rahul Gandhi must have thought that enough was enough.

The wheel has come full circle for the man who has made a whole career undercutting his leader. He is widely believed to be the man behind the decision of the high command to sack Niranjan and replace him with Jayadev Jena in 2013 just when the party was just beginning to show signs of a revival of sorts in the state. He apparently managed to persuade Rahul that with a Dalit at the helm, votes would just come flooding into the Congress. The result was for everyone to see. For five years, Jena continued to rule by proxy as first Jayadev Jena and then Prasad Harichandan indulged him. But the same Rahul Gandhi, who had once sacked Niranjan on his advice, brought him back in what was a clear snub to Jena.

‘Scandeep’ would stick its neck out and predict that the fate of the man nicknamed ‘Chakrant’ by mischievous sections of the media would not be vastly different – at least in the near future – from what happened to Pyari Babu after he fell from grace. Fire and brimstone amounting to nothing!

(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)