BJP relies on developmental agenda for growth in Odisha

Interesting political shifts are under way in Odisha

56-Prof-Badri-Narayan Prof Badri Narayan

INTERESTING POLITICAL shifts are under way in Odisha, some of them apparent and some hidden. Together, they may contribute to the making of a new political reality in the state. Signs of it can be seen in the byelections to the legislative assembly from Dhamnagar in November and Padampur in December.

The BJP is working to create a combination of pride, confidence and developmental aspirations as its political trajectory.

The Dhamnagar result is important for reasons. First, it was the first byelection the Biju Janata Dal lost after coming to power in 2019. Second, it showed that the BJD’s women vote base was getting fractured, with a section looking at the BJP as an alternative. Third, it dispelled the notion that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s charisma is unbreakable. Fourth, it generated a fear of loss in the BJD and strengthened the politics of possibility for the BJP.

This fear was noticed in the BJD’s campaign in Padampur. It made Patnaik give a lot of time to Padampur; he appeared at three public meetings there. State power was in action there in one form or another. Political analysts say the rallies and the presence of Patnaik in the constituency were crucial factors in his party’s victory in the election.

But we need to study the Padampur result closely. Even though the BJP lost the election, its vote share increased. The BJP fought the election on various local and regional issues related to development, and showed its powerful presence as an opposition party with a well-conceived developmental agenda. The election result showed that there was a sharp decline of the Congress vote base. It suggested that the BJP is the only strong voice of opposition and the only powerful alternative in state politics.

A rural journalist in Padampur told me that the BJP was making a strong bid for power in the state with a visionary agenda of developmental politics. This may appear as politics of future possibility for the BJP in Odisha. This condition of immense possibility for the BJP is also evolving thanks to various welfare schemes for the poor (garib kalyan schemes) visualised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Implemented by the Central government, these schemes have benefited a large number of people, who vote beyond caste and community. Schemes such as PM Awas Yojana, Jan Dhan Yojana and Ujjwala Yojana are slowly changing the political landscape of Odisha and enabling the poor to opt for their own alternative for state power.

It is clear that the process of localisation of the BJP is going on. It means the BJP is trying hard to expand its strong organisational base at the local level. It is a kind of politics that does not evolve through charisma but through grassroot political actions.

The vision that the BJP in Odisha is proposing is a combination of micro need-based local development and transformative mega development such as coastal highways, rail and petrochemical projects. On the other hand, the BJD is largely focusing on schemes of basic and immediate nature, instead of creating a long-term mega developmental vision for a Shreshtha Odisha. The BJP is also working to enhance Odia pride and identity, and make it part of Shreshtha Bharat. So the party is working to create a combination of pride, confidence and developmental aspirations as its political trajectory. The trust capital of Narendra Modi is also an important factor for providing winnability to the BJP in the state.

So, there are two kinds of politics in Odisha. One is charisma-based and persona-centric. The other is relying on organisational strength, with a new developmental vision. It is clear that the BJP has emerged in recent past as an assertive alternative in Odisha. Let us see how the politics of Odisha is going to reshape itself in the coming days.

The writer is director, G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad