Bhuabenswar: Keeping pace with the trend in national politics, Odisha is witnessing a realignment of forces with smaller parties and regional strongmen joining hands to take on big players in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
A new front called the Odisha Democratic Front has taken shape, giving the jitters to the ruling BJD and the Opposition Congress and BJP. Two regional parties - Samanta Kranti Dal, headed by former Union minister Brajakishore Tripathy, and Utkal Bharat led by Kharevela Swain, a former MP, - formed the new front on January 21.
Political analysts say the front under which the old Janata Dal leaders are likely to assemble may eat into votes of all major parties and might throw up unexpected results in 2019 Assembly and general elections to be held simultaneously.
The new front is in talks with erstwhile Janata Dal veterans and some estranged BJD leaders.
“We have been talking to old Janata Dal leaders like Bijoy Mohapatra, Dilip Ray and former BJD Lok Sabha member Baijyant Panda. We hope, this new front will be an ideal platform for all those leaders who want to remove this corrupt BJD government from power in the state,” said Mr Swain.
Mr Tripathy believes leaders ideologically opposed to the BJP and the Congress as well as the regional BJD, would join the front as it promises good governance and determined fight against people involved in mining and chit fund scams.
“Mineral resources worth over Rs 2 lakh crore were looted and dubious ponzi firms swindled money from over 20 lakh people. All this happened with the support of political bosses and top bureaucrats. Surprisingly, no actions are being taken to punish the accused. Instead, those who encouraged the scams and are directly or indirectly involved in it, have been rewarded in different ways,” said Mr Tripathy.
The front leaders - Brajakishore Tripathy and Kharavel Swain - are known for their honesty. However, according to political analysts, they lack pan-Odisha appeal.
While Mr Tripathy has a strong base in the Puri Lok Sabha constituency, Mr Swain’s clout is limited to Balasore only. Analysts maintain that if these leaders succeed in wooing people like Bijoy Mohapatra, Dilip Ray and former BJD Lok Sabha member Baijyant Panda, they might make some difference in coastal Odisha.
The three leaders have their own pockets of influence in four to five coastal Odisha districts. Analysts maintain that non-Congress voters opposed to the BJP would side with the front. In such a case, the BJP which is eyeing power in the state might face a little setback. Cruising along to achieve its goal, the BJP increased its vote share from nearly 19 per cent in 2014 Assembly elections to almost 33 per cent in 2017 local body polls.
The Congress, which slipped from 26 per cent votes in 2014 Assembly polls to 18 per cent in 2017 local body elections, might see the voters wanting a change. They might switch to the new front in search of good governance or teaching a lesson to the political parties which have maintained a studied silence over corruption.
The BJD, according to experts, would expectedly suffer more dents than the Congress and the BJP as the party is an offshoot of the erstwhile Janata Dal. Many disgtruntled former leaders of Janata Dal are keent to settle scores with the BJD.
“The regional BJD was formed by a breakaway group of the erstwhile Janata Dal. Now, as it appears, the disgruntled BJD leaders might join this front because of their ideological affinity,” said political analyst Dr Gouranga Charan Rout.
The BJD and the Opposition BJP and Congress have dismissed the possibility of any impact of the front on their poll prospects.
“The BJP will form the next government in Odisha by winning all the 40 Assembly seats in western Odisha and more number of seats in coastal and other parts of Odisha,” said senior BJP leader Suresh Pujari.
Prashant Satpathy, Congress spokesperson, said, “When elections come, such fronts are born and they die down soon after the polls.”
BJD president and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik said his party which got 117 of the 147 Assembly seats and 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, would post better performance this year.
“Our party will do very well this time and better its 2014 figures,” the chief minister said. The Congress had won 16 Assembly seats while the BJP won 10 in 2014 Assembly polls....