Op-Ed: Focus Shifts To The Fate of Top Notch Leaders

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: With the final round of polling coming to an end in the state the focus would now shift to the fate of some of the key players in these elections. Speculation is already rife about what may happen to Kendrapara’s BJP candidate, Baijayant Panda who has been hogging the limelight for the past few weeks.

Panda became the centre of media attention primarily because of the way he parted ways with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) following a bitter fall-out with chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. For months after he walked out of BJD there was intense speculation about his next political move. His entry into the BJP was a big media event with the party quickly making him its national vice-president and spokesperson.

In this case the need appeared to be mutual. While the BJP, which has always lacked glamour quotient in the state, was in dire need of leaders with a pan-Odisha identity Panda must have found the support of a national party ruling at the Centre quite reassuring. More importantly contesting the election on BJP symbol was much better than entering the fray as an independent.

Irrespective of the outcome of the contest in Kendrapara, Panda has emerged taller by taking up the challenge of contesting from Kendrapara under trying circumstances. For all practical purposes it is a grudge battle between him and the chief minister who seems to have made the contest a prestige issue. The result of this high voltage contest would be keenly watched and speculation over Panda’s political career is bound to continue even after May 23 when the EVMs would be unlocked and votes counted.

State Congress president, Niranjan Patnaik has also been in focus this time. While he and his party made news more for the wrong reasons with candidate selection turning into a huge controversy and some important leaders quitting the party his own candidature from two assembly seats simultaneously has fuelled speculation about his future.

The question being asked is why did he feel the need to file papers also from Bhandaripokhari when Ghasipura has been his traditional stronghold. Is he feeling shaky in Ghasipura and scared of losing out to BJD stalwart and minister, Badri Narayan Patra? These questions are bound to crop up irrespective of how awkward the Congress chief feels about answering them.

This is the price top notch politicians have to pay for being in public life. Their each step is under media and public scrutiny. They have to explain their every move. Patnaik, who had begun his second innings as the state Congress chief with a bang but then quickly found himself in the midst of hostile circumstances, must be keeping his fingers crossed.

Speculation is also rife about chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s future political moves once the election results are announced. As far as his support to any of the two major national coalitions at the Centre is concerned he is keeping his options open. He has taken a flexible and politically convenient stand by indicating that his party would back the combine that can best safeguard the interests of Odisha.

(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.)