Bhubaneswar: The list of nine Lok Sabha and 65 Assembly candidates announced by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) so far triggered a political earthquake of sorts with seismic effects of the move felt even beyond the party. Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik fielded new candidates from eight Lok Sabha seats and changed at least 20 sitting MLAs and a host of candidates who had lost in 2014.
The backlash within the party was immediate with two of the sitting MPs denied tickets—Balabhadra Majhi and Pratyusha Rajeshwari Singh, quitting and joining the BJP. Another sitting MP, Arka Kesari Deo, scion of Kalahandi royal family, is also reported to have sent his resignation. Five MLAs have also quit the party.
Naveen, to be honest, had never before resorted to such a massive shake-up at the time of elections. No wonder the immediate reaction of the two major Opposition parties—BJP and Congress—was that faced with the anti-incumbency factor, the chief minister had pressed the panic button. Plausible as it may seem, this argument is not entirely correct.
Naveen, the most successful chief minister of the state in its entire history, does not need to press the panic button. During the last five years of his rule, he has given a good account of himself and the slew of welfare schemes he has launched have served the people well, irrespective of the Opposition’s charge that they are aimed only at garnering votes. Compared to the Congress chief ministers who came before him, Naveen’s report card has been excellent.
Hence, he does not need to panic. He can remain secure in the knowledge that his welfare projects are doing well and people are generally happy with the way he has steered the state. Apart from catering to the basic needs of the people, both poor and the middle class, he has also taken care to ensure that the state acquires an honourable profile at the national and international level. He has succeeded to a great extent in this endeavour, with Bhubaneswar turning into the sports capital of the country and playing host to major tournaments including the Men’s Hockey World Cup. Odias can genuinely take pride in this achievement of the Naveen government.
Given that perspective, the large-scale changes being made by Naveen while selecting party candidates appears to be more of an exercise in caution aimed bringing better people to the fore in politics and providing better governance. An astute politician, the chief minister has been equally pragmatic while making the move, which is clear from the inclusion of people like Congress turncoats, Naba Kishore Das and Jogesh Singh, in the list of candidates. The performance of the sitting MPs and MLAs in their respective constituencies has also been taken into account but none of this, in any way, reflects on the quality of his own governance.
Truth be spoken, Naveen is an extremely image conscious chief minister and knows it much better than anyone else that in politics, it is perception that matters most. The list of candidates released by him sends out a strong message and is bound to create a positive public perception about his party.
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