‘The Tall Man Biju Patnaik’, the release of a pictorial biography on former Chief Minister and arguably, Odisha’s tallest leader was a star-studded spectacle. Former President Pranab Mukherjee, former Prime Minister HD Devegowda, BJP heavyweight LK Advani and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury had a luncheon session with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik before adorning the book launch moment on the grand stage.
Off the stage were die hard Biju acolytes like Bijoy Mahapatra, the now Leader of Opposition Narsingha Mishra and Dilip Ray. The presence of political luminaries across party lines has triggered possibilities of political realignments and new permutations for the BJD. The party, though, has denied any political motive behind the show. “The occasion is to honour a hero, remember the tallest leader- the legend for his manifold contributions. It is being attended by leaders who respected Biju Patnaik and were close to him. This event should not be seen from any political prism”, said BJD vice president and former state minister Debi Prasad Mishra.
But, the media is already sniffing a wider political agenda. Earlier too, the BJD has played the ‘Biju’ card to weave an instant emotional connect with the people. One recalls in the campaigning for 2014 elections, Naveen Patnaik invoked memories and achievements of his illustrious father for electoral gains. And, the recipe worked for him and his BJD. The party won the 2014 polls winning 117 assembly seats and almost whitewashed the Lok Sabha elections, bagging 20 of 21 seats in Odisha.
BJP’s senior leader Biswa Bhushan Harichandan feels the book release event should not be exploited for political dividends.
The timing of the book launch could not have been more appropriate. It coincides with Biju Patnaik’s birth centenary celebration. The occasion is to rekindle people’s trust and support for the BJD by recreating Biju magic. A massive show of strength seems to be the BJD’s unpublicised homework now when some elements in the Opposition and rebels within the party are trying to create fissures. If expelled leader Jay Panda is showing his backing on the social media, his embittered boss Naveen shows he can drown the ‘Twitter Tiger’ with a rousing mass support.
The occasion is also viewed as a harbinger for the homecoming of some leaders into the BJD. Names like Bijay Mahapatra, Dilip Ray and Prafulla Ghadai are doing the rounds- the BJD leadership could decide on their return sooner or later.
On the national horizon, BJD’s priorities seem muddled now. Naveen’s BJD has been keeping equidistance from the Congress and the BJP. Even a conjecture on whether the BJD would back a Third Alliance or play a humble kingmaker at the next polls would look dicey now. BJD in four back to back polls has vanquished its rival parties. The bigger gameplan is to retain that hegemony.