Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Bijepur by-election ransacked political prudence through blatantly irresponsible electioneering by BJD and BJP. Electoral climate was completely polluted and opportunism shamelessly promoted to the debacle of democracy by both the parties that rule respectively in Orissa and at the Center.
Yet, as many as 1684 wise voters used ‘None Of The Above’ candidates (NOTA) option to register their rejection of the contesting parties and candidates that failed to define their political-economy and ideology.
Bhasha Andolan had given a call for use of NOTA option to refuse mandate to all those that have not expressed their support to the demand of Bhasha Andolan for amendment of Orissa Official language Act, 1954 and O.O.L.Rules, 2016 to provide for penal action against whoever fails to render service in Oriya Language in the State. It was an appeal to the conscience and seems to have led to the record-breaking use of NOTA option in a by-election, where usually the voters get utmost motivated to vote.
The NOTA clicks apart, 10274 voters stood with their Party – the Congress – despite the subterfuge shrewdly resorted to by a pack of State level leaders that are known for their eagerness to teach PCC chief Prasad Harichandan a lesson.
The Constituency had stood with the Congress Party for three terms till its last sitting MLA Subal Sahu passed away in August 2017. It had the pride of refusing mandate to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik three times and to Prime Minister Modi last time, when its closest constituency Padmapur had voted for BJP in 2014.
Sahu was certainly a man of the masses and was holding sway over Bijepur till he breathed his last. His death was bound to generate massive sympathy for his widow Rita Sahu and the bereaved family.
Conscious of this, the greatest ever beneficiary of death-generated sympathy in Orissa – Naveen Patnaik – lost no time in gaining over Subal’s widow even before the Congress could overcome the grief of losing a sitting member.
Mrs. Sahu displayed uncanny cunningness in using her late husband’s political image for personal gain, when the Chief Minister dazzled her with lucrative promises. Sure of benefits, she allowed herself to be inducted into BJD which took place on September 23. The sympathy mixed with the unfathomable money the ruling party spent in her electioneering, has helped her get 102871 out of total 181716 casted votes.
But, in reality, Bijepur went bizarre.
Many of BJD, disillusioned by Naveen’s discernibly nonchalant attitude towards the farmers that form majority in the constituency went to BJP, which being a cadre-based party had a fixed treasury of cadre-votes. Thus the BJP was certain to win.
But why BJD won and wherefrom Rita got the winning votes?
The answer lies in the contradiction the Congress Party was going through. A pack of vested-interest provincial leaders of Congress, whom defeat of the party candidate in the by-poll was the last hope to get Prasad Harichandan relinquish the PCC chair that Niranjan Patnaik eyes for, were in their shrewdest possible act of subterfuge. Many observers including some genuine Congress oldtimers believe that, had the group that was trying umpteen times to replace Prasad with Niranjan Patnaik not camped in Bijepur, the rank and file of the party could never have been shepharded into the BJD camp under the pretense of avenging BJP’s call for Congress-mukt-Bharat.
Beyond these happenings, a non-happening also convinced the credulous Congress supporters that, if the ignominious defeat of 2014 was to be avenged, then, the candidate that may defeat the BJP, should be supported instead of supporting the candidate their own party had planted.
The conviction that BJD will win came to them on watching the conduct of Navnirman Krushak Sangathan (NKS), which Niranjan babu’s brother Soumya Ranjan Patnaik was leading.
Before the by-election, NKS conducted four massive demonstrations to show Naveen Patnaik what debacle it may cause to electoral prospects of BJD at Bijepur if its demands were not fulfilled.
Its demands were not even heeded to; but the Sangathan was conspicuous by its absence at Bijepur!
This mysterious and murkey manner of NKS is being attributed to two reasons: (1) Soumya Ranjan’s eyes on Rajyasabha seat and (2) Niranjan’s eyes on the PCC chair.
The defeat of Congress in its “forte” has metamorphosed into resignation of Prasad Harichandan. Whether or not the Congress would be in total disarray if the resignation is accepted, is a different matter. But if, as suspected, the group that had been putting pressure on Congress high command to change the PCC chief, engineered the defeat of the party candidate in order to create a situation for Prasad to quit, it will stay a non-wipeable page of imprudence in politics.
Despite this, the Congress candidate has earned 10274 votes. These votes are the most committed votes that Bijepur has contributed to wellbeing of democracy.
Except the 1684 votes casted under NOTA option and the 10274 votes casted in favor of the Congress candidate, all the rest votes were just opportunistic and situational and blatantly susceptible to manipulation and maneuvering.
Hence, to the question if Bijepur would impact the coming general elections , my answer is: “No. Not at all.”