Will simmering discontent mar BJP’s prospects in Odisha?

Between BJP's claim and reality, there seems to lie a huge area of grey which would be difficult for the party to fill colours in following the discontentment among ticket aspirants

Bhubaneswar: Elections are all about chemistry and arithmetic… And the BJP is well aware how the ruling-BJD is on a strong footing in Odisha on both counts. While BJD is harping on CM Naveen Patnaik’s popularity, strong vote base and huge cadre, the State BJP seems to have ‘miscalculated’ its moves to checkmate the Naveen brigade. In the process, has the party which was banking high on PM Modi’s popularity to carry through the day in Odisha, erred in candidate selection?

It was the charisma of Narendra Modi that helped the party increase its vote share from around 15  per cent in 2009 to around 21 per cent in 2014 elections. Following the 2014 polls and formation of BJP government at the Centre, Odisha had always been on the priority list of PM Modi and it was always believed that the BJP leaders here would diligently cash in on Modi wave and the party’s achievements to bring back the party to the helm for another term.

However, the resignation of Subash Chouhan from the BJP and his subsequent joining of hands with the BJD has raised questions over the credibility of State leadership of the saffron party in pacifying the intolerance and shrinking space for dissent.

While leaving the party, Chouhan, who was denied a ticket for the Bargarh Lok Sabha constituency, expressed his disappointment on way the party is being run in the State and said, “I am hurt not because I did not get ticket. The party (BJP) is in the pocket of a particular person and it is being run like his fiefdom. Swayamsevaks, who have always worked for the party, are now feeling let down.”

By raising the issue of swayamsevaks, Chouhan hinted at alleged defenestration of swayamsevaks by the BJP and they will no longer stay ensconced in the party.

Chouhan further, hinting at Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, alleged that the Sangh Parivar is giving protection to that ‘particular person’. He also alleged that he was bullied when he argued that the petroleum minister should be BJP’s candidate against Naveen Patnaik from Bijepur Assembly seat as he (Pradhan) is the most powerful leader of the party in Odisha.

After joining the BJD on Wednesday, Chouhan once again trained his guns at Pradhan and said, “I have been raising voice against injustice and an egoistic person in the party (BJP);  I thought to revolt against him by staying in the party but felt that nothing will change in the process. Over 40 deserving members of the party were denied ticket and instead, cheaters and sycophants were granted… The party can’t sustain in such a situation.”

It is believed that the party has lost two Lok Sabha seats by not fielding Chauhan from Bargarh seat where he had lost to BJD’s Prabhas Singh by a margin of around 11000 votes during 2014 polls. Chauhan had reportedly worked hard in the constituency and was expected to change the political equations in the region by banking on Modi ‘wave’.

Similarly, Suresh Pujari, who has been fielded from Bargarh by replacing Chouhan, had lost to BJD’s Nagendra Pradhan during the previous polls with a margin of around 30000 votes. Winning in Bargarh, where voters love to vote for local leaders and take into consideration a leader and not his party while casting vote, won’t be so easy that it would have been for Pujari from Sambalpur this time.

Besides, another senior BJP leader from Mayurbhanj, Rajkishore Das also left the BJP levelling such allegations against Dharmendra Pradhan. Hinting at Pradhan, Das alleged that ‘a Union minister wielding his power has been trying to control everything in the party.’

“BJP has given away winning seats to the ruling party on a platter. And it now seems, between the saffron party’s claim and reality there lies a huge area of grey which they would no longer seem to conquer following all these mess up,” said a local of Bargarh LS constituency.