Naveen Patnaik chose to pooh-pooh BJP president Amit Shah’s claim of conquering Odisha at the next polls with a tally of 120+ seats. Patnaik, the BJD boss, has ruled the state for 18 years on the trot minus any serious challenger. He knows more than anyone else what it takes to be at the top. In a knee jerk response, he dismissed Shah’s claim, terming them very, very exaggerated. He went on to say there was no premise to back the BJP’s projections.
As the responsible chief minister, he was swift to defend his party. Patnaik said, his government never gave the short shrift to western Odisha districts. Instead, the BJD led government was tirelessly working to serve people of the region. This comment from the horse’s mouth has effectively quelled Shah’s jibes on the Naveen government in the course of his rallies at Bhawanipatna and Bolangir, both in the western hinterland.
Shah’s jaunts to Odisha have become more frequent over the past couple of years. And, lately, with the resounding victory in the Left citadel of Tripura, he seems more confident to take on the BJD in its backyard. BJD, on the contrary, has been unnerved by his campaigns or rallies in the state. Ask any BJD leader or spokesperson and he will tell you how Shah’s efforts to consolidate the BJP have come a cropper. A BJD spokesperson says Amit Shah’s visit will be shorn of any impact let alone denting the ruling party in Odisha.
What has led to this perception? And, a sense of security within the BJD? When the chief of a national party (read BJP) with its government at the Centre visits a state, it is bound to send the shiver down the spine for its political adversaries. But, it has not happened in Odisha. Blame it on the lack of strength and strategy within the BJP to create that visible impact, both in optics and delivery. Shah’s oratory is bland and uninspiring. Each time, he visits Odisha, he urges his audience to overthrow the Naveen Patnaik government. He neither shows the way nor elaborates on the reason to unseat a democratically elected government whose mandate is getting stronger in poll after poll. True, the BJP president touches upon the shortcomings and attacks the ruling dispensation for lack of development and poor infrastructure, especially in interior districts. But, he is conspicuously mute on the BJP’s own development recipe. People are keen to know how the BJP, if voted to power, can lift their sagging fortunes.
More, the ‘defunct transformer’ metaphor used by Shah for Naveen Patnaik has not struck the chord. It has become repetitive without any impact. As a hugely popular leader, Naveen rules the mindscape of the people. And it’s not easy to challenge and dislodge that emotional connect. That apart, Shah’s strategy to dine with a Dalit family during his last two visits to gain visibility and traction has not worked to the BJP’s advantage either.
Odisha is not another Tripura. Mission 120+ unveiled by Odisha sounds staggering and at the same time preposterous. As Shah was roaring in his public rallies, the BJP was humiliated and humbled by the BJD at the NAC elections at Attabira and Hindol. The scars of Bijepur by polls where BJP conceded defeat by a margin of over 41,000 votes, aren’t over yet. One stunning show at the three-tier panchayat elections and since then, the lotus hasn’t quite bloomed in Odisha. Hopefully, Shah takes note and evens out in his next visit to Odisha.