Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Intricate developments are taking shape in Orissa politics. Elections are not far away and shenanigans are sharp.
Superannuated IAS officer-turned-Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra (PM) is most busy. It is he who alone has trumpeted the conch of BJD ahead of any politician or political party in Orissa.
A month ago media was not mentioning his name though everybody was taking it to be him only when mentions were being made of Sahid Nagar Uncle. Now his name is occupying headlines.
A select group of journalists, irrespective of where they work, have started adding aura to his name.
And, BJD members all over the State have started looking at him as the real leader, as to them, there is no doubt that it is he who controls Chief Minister Navin Patnaik.
In fact, in their opinion, Navin is still a political novice despite around a decade in the Chief Minister chair. Peoples believe, he is too dependent on Mohapatra to learn intricacies of politics. But Bijedians are afraid; he has no ability to learn. They are embarrassed over his inability to learn the beautiful mother tongue of Orissa till date. To most of founder members of BJD, he is an unpredictable sophomore. Like a dull but boastful child discards or destroys his toys just to exhibit how capable is he in the game of naughtiness, Navin has, without any notice, dropped from the ministry and dismissed from the party many colleagues who in fact had founded the BJD and brought him to politics. This has often prompted them not to rely on him as a leader. But none of them being a chief-ministerial ingredient, they were unable to think of any alternative. Sri Mahapatra’s decision to cast aside his playback role and to spearhead electioneering ahead of time and ahead of everybody is a calculated attempt in this context.
It is remarkable that he threw a bolt from the blue at BJP from the BJD podium at Bolangir by announcing that he wants his party to win all the 147 seats of Orissa. Navin who heads the ruling coalition with BJP was too surprised and shocked to react immediately. BJP made a feeble protest. Since then it is busy in assuring its cadres that the coalition will continue notwithstanding Mahapatra’s assertions. Navin in his delayed reaction has tried to match to the BJP tune of conciliation. Only one man in BJD, a former minister jettisoned by Navin from his cabinet but yet not dismissed from the party, Damodar Raut, came down heavily on Mohapatra for his disrespect to ethicality of coalition and stressed that when the party has been sharing power with BJP, it was wrong to have said to plant candidates in all the constituencies.
Raut’s reaction has two probable reasons. One, when he was in Biju’s cabinet, Mohapatra was a government servant paying him respect every now and then. Therefore his exalted position in BJD has remained contretemps for Raut. In the circumstances, begrudging him is not unnatural and so, availing the opportunity to censor Mohapatra was perhaps driven by his desire to avenge the embarrassment. Two, Raut perhaps has read Mohapatra’s aggressive electioneering stances as his strategic march towards the top post and hence has shrewdly tried to impress upon Navin that he will stand with him if others stand with Mohapatra.
Raut may not be wrong in his calculation. In a sense, it is just a corollary to Mohapatra’s.
Mohapatra’s Bolangir assertions were well calculated. The ex-princely area is a hot spot of rivalry between both the partners of the ruling coalition as the heirs of a former king that had kept this area under his grip, have, on the basis of their selfish ambitions, bifurcated into two rival groups and have joined both the parties and fighting against each other as acrimoniously as conceivable. So, media has an alert eye on Bolangir and Mahapatra knows it. He therefore deliberately choose this place to place on records his preference for planting BJD candidates in all the 147 constituencies of Orissa. The news, as calculated by Mohapatra, instantly spread all over the State and beyond.
He knows that the General Election 2009 is knocking at the door. He knows that his party BJD is a party of power politics and it does not stand for any political economy and its members are members thereof only for fulfilling their respective selfish ambitions in the sphere of financial gain and political positions that include berths in either the cabinet or in the Assembly / Parliament. So every member of BJD in every constituency has a latent desire to contest Assembly polls. Coalition with BJP has remained the strongest deterrent to this desire. Mohapatra calculated that in a single stroke he should raze down this deterrent and ignite the dormant ambitions of his party members in the grassroots and enkindle in them the courage to aspire for candidacy. This would, he was sure, make Bijedians convinced that he is the only one with whom at the top all their ambitions might be fulfilled. Why should he not become the CM? He must have asked the question to himself and must have answered the question himself, before choosing Bolangir as the launching pad of his all-constituency-claim. Before that Mohapatra was the Sahidnagar uncle; but after that he has become the only leader who personifies the ambitions of all the members of BJD.
Mohapatra has in his subsequent conduct shown that he does not care for what a man like Raut or even Navin says in the matter of coalition with BJP. He has not only ushered members from the rank and file of BJP into BJD, but also has repeated his all-constituency- claim even while unreservedly remitting the message that he is most happy over and hopeful of BJD victory over BJP as and when the occasion arises as has occurred in Bhubaneswar Municipal elections. This might have embittered Raut, but certainly has endeared him to members of BJD. If members are to choose from him and Navin, he may be the choice under the new circumstances.
Keeping this in mind, political equations in Orissa may change. The change has commenced with change of leadership in Orissa Pradesh Congress.
The new Congress team has enough ammunition to attack Navin.
Like his father Biju, Navin is an acrobat of assurances and MoUs.
During these ten years in power, what to speak of other ventures, he has not been able to add a single unit to generation of power in Orissa.
In the sector of production his entire term has remained barren, though corruption has become the order of the day so much so that even third class police officers have become men of crores. Navin raj stands synonymous with loot raj. From a Storekeeper in Class IV cadre to a Secretary in the IAS cadre employees have indulged in looting the State like never before and majority of his ministers with wretchedly poor background are now dazzling with multimillionaire aura.
So, Congress has enough ammunition to attack Navin. But this party of American lobbyists is so discredited that it is impossible on its part to get majority support in Orissa. It is a party also of discredited politicians thrown away by Navin from BJD and of opportunity users who after retirement from government service are eager to explore if any avenue for future benefit could be available under its banner and of elements whom peoples have rejected in the past.
The Congress in Orissa is a party of low morale at the moment.
It had a brilliant Leader of Opposition in J.B.Pattnaik and an equally brilliant Deputy Leader of Opposition in Narasingh Mishra. The former has been jettisoned and the later has resigned. It had a dedicated President in Jaydev Jena. He has been dropped.
It had a stock of disciplined intellectuals like Prasad Harichandan. But it has never given them due importance.
Its lady autocrat has now “appointed” for OrissaPradesh Unit of Congress Sri K. P. Singhdeo as President, Bhakta Das as Working President and Srikant Jena as the Campaigner-in-Chief.
None of these three fellows belong originally to Congress.
All of them had come to political lime light by opposing the “corrupt” Congress.
They have never said anywhere at any point of time so far that the Congress is not a corrupt party.
They have never said so far that it was wrong on their part to have opposed the Congress in the past or to have painted Congress as “corrupt”.
There is a huge gap of communication between these fellows and Congress grassroots.
In Orissa, change of party is considered not as a change in politico-economic preference but as an act of opportunity use in personal interest.
So the new Congress team has no chance of bringing out a change.
But change of the old team by “appointment” of the new “soldiers” (as KP has defined his position) has wiped out whatever little confidence of stability had been thriving in persons who originally belong to the Congress.
It is not that the so-called Congress high command is not aware of this.
Then why this exercise? It is just a gambling.
If the change clicks, it will be well and truly a success; if it fails, at least POSCO agents should be in power again in Orissa. Who does not know POSCO resembles American imperialist ambition and Congress is now under the grip of American lobbyists?
Therefore, Orissa is under a bizarre business of politics.
The main rivals, the BJD and the Congress are one in their support to imperialism. So there is no problem for both these parties entering into a coalition in mutual interest.
But in this endeavor, Navin may be an obstacle. In the decade in power he has developed a working understanding with BJP and BJP knows where his shoes pinch. So for him to terminate his coalition with BJP will never be that easy.
On the other hand, his stark failure in making the industries under yoke of MoU a reality and his style of functioning that is more pro-rich is bound to prompt peoples to reject the BJD.
If BJD is rejected, at the spur of the moment, peoples may develop preference for BJP and any preference expressed for BJP would be disadvantageous to the Congress.
So the first strategy is to denigrate the BJP and to equip the BJD with an attire of progressiveness. This attire is Sri Mohapatra, who, despite having spent his entire career in the IAS, is known as darling of the left. So the way Mohapatra has come out of his cocoon and has swiftly spread his wings from a Sahidnagar lane of Bhubaneswar to every nook and corner of Orissa assuring Bijedians not to worry is perhaps dovetailed with the secret strategy of the Congress.
Mohapatra has already taken the steering of campaign into his own hand and I believe there is none in BJD to stop him. In fact it is only because of him, progressive peoples such as Narendra Swain, once a State Committee member of CPI and Nityananda Pradhan, once CPI’s member in Orissa Assembly, have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked to support BJD notwithstanding how infested is it with the POSCO stink.
So, most probably, BJD-BJP coalition will collapse. If it continues, it will be just a cosmetic coalition. In many constituencies the farce of “friendly contest” shall be enacted by BJD to help the Congress and depending on poll outcome, alliance shall be redrafted with Mohapatra offered with the top position and Navin enacting Biju of Kamaraj phase. The Congress will then remain content with its share of power in Orissa and take it to its advantage in the Center.
Thus it seems, if BJD is not rejected, Sri Pyari Mohapatra may be the next Chief Minister.
If this does not happen, Orissa will be plunged into a new phase of anarchy.