ISSUES such as price rise, recession and the naxalite problem do not seem to be in the list of priorities of the major political parties in this round of elections.
While the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) aims for a third consecutive term in the State and the Congress seeks to win as many Lok Sabha seats as possible and also return to power in the State, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not seem to be giving priority to winning. The party is working to ensure the BJDs defeat so as to occupy the non-Congress space in Orissa politics and implement its Hindutva agenda to emerge as a bigger force in the years to come.
The party is recruiting leaders who consider Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik their enemy in an attempt to strengthen its base, which has eroded because of infighting during the 11 years in power. The partys leaders were initially angry about the split with the BJD, but have since reconciled themselves to implementing long-term plans for the party in the State.
The fact that these elections are not the partys focus became clear when the partys prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, said at an election rally in Cuttack that Naveen Patnaik had done their party a great favour by breaking the alliance. He also made it clear that the BJP would not have a post-poll alliance with the BJD and would, instead, convert the present challenges into an opportunity and strengthen the party.
Many leaders who were unhappy with the BJD or the Congress have already joined the BJP after the split. The majority of them have joined the party with two objectives to settle scores with their previous party colleagues and contest the elections on the BJP ticket.
Meanwhile, in a clear attempt to carry forward its communal agenda, the party has fielded one of the accused in the recent anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district as its candidate for G. Udayagiri Assembly constituency. The accused, Manoj Pradhan, is lodged in the Baliguda jail in Kandhamal for his alleged involvement in several cases of murder, rioting and looting.
The BJP has also fielded a Hindu hardliner as its candidate for the newly carved out Kandhamal parliamentary seat. The candidate, Ashok Sahu, was the president of the Orissa unit of the Hindu Jagaran Manch until a few weeks ago. He resigned from the post to contest the polls.
According to informed sources, the partys central leadership is happy that the split ended the growing differences between the leaders of the Sangh Parivar and the party in the State. The split also brought all factions of the party together.
The Sangh Parivar organisations have become active to help the BJP. There are 34 full-fledged Sangh Parivar organisations active in the State and around 100 smaller outfits working under them. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad alone has 20 front organisations.
After his party severed its ties with the BJP, the Chief Minister has started claiming that he is a politician who believes in true secularism. The Left parties have also come forward to support him. He has also said that he is relieved that the BJP is no longer his partner.
Further, Patnaiks famous words, Each bone of my body is secular, have found a place in the inner cover of his party manifesto. His party has also promised complete security to all communities for their religious programmes.Prafulla Das