Bhubaneswar: With some pre-poll surveys pointing to waning popularity of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, the ruling BJD has started redrafting its policy to retain the party’s rhythm to win Assembly elections for the fifth consecutive term in 2019.
The BJD is now focusing on distancing itself from scam-tainted party leaders and project Mr Patnaik as a promoter of clean-image politicians, former bureaucrats, activists and young sports icons.
The popularity of Mr Patnaik is waning very fast in Odisha if the Political Stock Exchange survey conducted in November by India Today and the India TV-CNX survey are anything to go by. The surveys also pointed towards a decline in the BJD’s support base.
The Political Stock Exchange survey conducted on September showed that Mr Patnaik was the first choice of 59 per cent people of the state. However, by November this figure has come down to 54 per cent.
Similarly, the India TV-CNX survey also does not indicate good results for the ruling BJD. In 2014, the BJD had got 44.77 per cent votes. But if the election is held now the party will get 44 per cent votes, the survey stated.
If sources are to be believed, the ruling BJD, which has got 118 members in the 147-member state Assembly, is planning to drop over 40 sitting MLAs, most of them “scam-tainted” and “non-performing”, to ensure that that the voters do not shy away from the regional outfit in 2019 polls.
As many as four young legislators have been facing CBI probe into the multi-crore chit fund scam. Besides, a few other young lawmakers of the party are allegedly involved in mining scam.
As the regional outfit has always been targeted by the Opposition BJP and Congress, especially for the behaviour of the young lawmakers, it is unlikely to give them tickets risking the party’s electoral prospects, maintain political analysts.
The slump in the BJD’s vote bank in the 2017 rural polls and the Opposition parties attracting more number of “clean-image” persons, especially retired and serving bureaucrats and social workers, has left the BJD in a fix.
While one BJD Lok Sabha member, two sitting MLAs and a former MLA were arrested by the CBI Investigation in the chit fund scam, a few more lawmakers are apprehending trouble. Though the arrested leaders are currently out on the bail, the BJD leadership believes that if the arrested lawmakers are re-nominated to contest the 2019 Assembly polls the rival camp will stand on a high moral ground and make it a campaign issue.
Similarly, if the lawmakers are found guilty after the completion of hearing in the court they would lose their membership in the legislature, thereby, reducing the party strength in their respective Houses.
Political analysts blame the dominance of “scam-tainted” leaders in the BJD as the major reason of educated and conscious citizens detaching them from the party.
With the BJP playing a masterstroke by drafting into its fold hugely popular Indian Administrative Officer (IAS) Aparajita Sarangi and some sports icons and film stars, it has now become imperative for Mr Patnaik to match the saffron party’s preparation by enrolling new and fresh faces, replacing the tainted ones.
The CM, known for his political astuteness, nonetheless understands that dropping a whopping number of lawmakers from ticket lists is not an easy job and the deprived persons, now allegedly sitting on plenty of “ill-gotten” wealth, would revolt and sabotage the party’s electoral prospects. To keep these elements in good humour, the BJD has proposed creation of a Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council in the state. In fact, the ruling party adopted a resolution in the Budget Session of the Assembly for constitution of the Vidhan Parishad.
Realising that Mr Patnaik is making tactical moves to repair the dents his party has suffered, the rival BJP, led by Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and Congress, headed by Niranjan Patnaik, have geared up their public relations machinery to highlight the governance failure of the ruling party resulting in alleged rampant corruptions in the administration, lapses in execution of social welfares propgrammes and large-scale migration of the poor to other states in search of livelihood opportunities.
Notably, the ABP News-C Voter ‘Desh ka Mood’ survey conducted in October predicted that Narendra Modi-led BJP is likely to win big in Odisha during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.