Pradhan is being indirectly projected by the BJP as the party’s face opposite Naveen for the 2019 polls.
Bhubaneswar: Fighting alone since 2009, Odisha chief minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, despite being humbled in the last rural polls and facing a belligerent BJP, still exudes a sense of invincibility. The fact that BJP has suddenly emerged as the main challenger to his party in Odisha doesn’t perturb Mr Patnaik, nor does the announcement made by BJP national president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi about making Odisha the “testing laboratory” of the NDA government’s plan to “eradicate poverty and successfully implement the government’s pro-poor programmes for inclusive growth”.
The chief minister, who is steadfastly composed when faced with difficult scenarios, has thrown the gauntlet to the BJP leaders to shake his position in 2019, when the state goes to polls.
Mr Patnaik, while addressing party leaders on the occasion of his father and former chief minister Biju Patnaik’s 20th death anniversary on April 16, was brazen in his attack on the BJP leaders. “They should learn Odisha model of inclusive growth rather than teaching it to us. Odisha has grown faster on many socio-economic parameters than other states,” he said.
“We have better knowledge than others about what inclusive growth is. Here, the fruits of inclusive development have reached to all sections of the society — the poor, farmers, women and persons with disabilities, and SC/STs. Welfare of women has always been our priority. Our development model is inclusive in nature. Others who speak about it should come to Odisha and learn it from us,” Mr Patnaik had said.
The CM’s assertion is seen as a direct dig at the BJP leaders who have been criticising his government for Odisha’s “backwardness”.
In fact, during the BJP’s national executive meeting on April 15-16, party president Mr Shah and the PM had shared statistics on Odisha’s “poor” healthcare facilities, education, drinking water, power supply and overwhelming rate of poverty”.
Ever since it came to power in the state in 2000 unseating the Congress, the BJD have been winning elections mainly because the internal conflicts in the grand old party. Now, that Congress has been decimated to a position of non-reckoning and shows no sign of immediate revival, the major threat the BJD gets is from a resurgent BJP led by Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
Mr Pradhan is being indirectly projected by the BJP as the party’s face opposite Naveen for the 2019 polls.
According to political analysts, Naveen does not apprehend threat to his position as his party BJD is firmly entrenched among the voters, especially the women voters. Under the Mission Shakti programme, - the BJD government has enrolled over 60 lakh women. These women who have been economically empowered considerably, constitute the strong support base of the ruling BJD and they have at the forefront of the BJD’s campaign in every elections. Of the total 2.49 crore voters in Odisha, 1.39 crore are women.
In the 2014 assembly and Lok Sabha elections, despite campaign by heavyweight BJP leaders like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rajanth Singh, - BJD bettered its results by winning 117 seats in the Assembly and 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.
The BJP could win only one Lok Sabha seat and 10 assembly seats. Larger participation of women voters tilted the results heavily in favour the BJD.