Column: A Marriage Of Convenience Ends On A Sour Note

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Politics makes strange bedfellows. One was reminded of this saying when former minister, Damodar Rout joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in March this year. It was an out and out opportunistic move that at that point of time suited both Rout and the party he had decided to hitch his political wagon to.

Dropped from the ministry by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik in the wake of a string of controversial statements Rout, who has the reputation of being a motormouth, was angry with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leadership. He was also more or less convinced that the party was not going to give him a ticket to contest the elections.

Feeling humiliated he perceived chief minister and BJD president, Naveen Patnaik to be his enemy no 1 and wanted to exact revenge. For this he needed a vehicle strong enough to ensure that he could take on the BJD in the election. Contesting as an independent did not appear to be a viable option as, among other things, arranging finances could have been a problem.

Hence, he jumped onto the saffron bandwagon with the sole aim of avenging his perceived humiliation at the hands of Patnaik. The need was mutual. While Rout need a party strong enough to back him in the elections the BJP, running short of big names, required leaders with a pan-Odisha profile to make its list of candidates look impressive. The party had no hesitation about welcoming defectors and political discards.

Besides, Rout served another important purpose for the BJP. The saffron leadership could use him to taunt chief minister, Naveen Patnaik and cast aspersions on his administration. The former minister, who is extremely articulate when attacking his enemies, tore into Patnaik and his government. He had suddenly tuned into a handy political weapon in the hands of BJP to target the chief minister who, however, did not appear to be unduly worried about what Rout was saying about him or his government.

Perhaps even Patnaik realized that Rout’s innings with the BJP was going to be short-lived because it was nothing more than a marriage of convenience. There was complete ideological mismatch between the two. BJP was complete opposite of what Rout, a self-professed acolyte of former chief minister, Biju Patnaik, had fought for all through his political career.

Patnaik, who had run a coalition government with BJP in the state for nine years, must have smiled to himself as he watched TV screens playing images of Rout joining the BJP at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi in March. The inevitable has now happened with Rout quitting the saffron party alleging neglect.

This was bound to happen. One can understand the frustration of Rout at not being accorded due importance by the party he had adopted. But then that is the character of modern politics which is completely bereft of any kind of idealism. Utility is the sole criterion to judge leaders irrespective of their experience and stature in this brand of politics. Rout had obviously outlived his utility for the BJP.

(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)