The surge of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Odisha has triggered cracks in the ruling Biju Janata Dal in the state. The war of wards has escalated in the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD, posing a risk to his government in the state.
Two senior BJD Lok Sabha MPs - Tathagata Satpathy and Baijayant Jay Panda - have traded charges over the condition of the party and the growing strength of BJP.
The tussle between the two comes barely a fortnight ahead of BJP's two-day national executive meeting scheduled to be held in Bhubaneshwar on April 15 and 16. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah will attend the crucial meeting.
The BJP's national executive meeting is being held against the backdrop of the party's historic success in the Odisha municipal elections, held in February, and the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the results of which were announced earlier this month.
BJP's rise has apparently sent shockwaves in Odisha. BJD MP from Dhenkanal Tathagata Satpathy has alleged that BJP is trying to divide and take away his party's name and symbol. He has also accused the BJP of trying to influence a BJD MP.
Tathagat's oblique reference was to Panda, his fellow party MP from Kendrapara. In a series of tweets on March 27, Satpathy claimed the BJP was trying an AIADMK-style split within his party. He said the attempt at split within the BJD is aimed at an early election in Odisha, originally scheduled in 2019.
Writing in The Samaja, one of Odisha's oldest daily, Panda said in an article titled 'BJD: Time For Introspection', "If we honestly introspect, we must acknowledge that all the above-listed allegations about the political environment in 1997, including widespread corruption and sheltering of powerful people committing criminal acts, are again being alleged about Odisha of the past three years..."
"Other parties are gaining ground because of their dynamic leadership, and unless the BJD's founder urgently deals with the issues outlined above, the party will struggle to face these challenges," Panda added.
Here's the English version of my Odia OpEd (also incl here) in The Samaja, Odisha's oldest/most-respctd paper, "BJD: Time For Introspection" pic.twitter.com/IuLWE2Ac2H
- Baijayant Jay Panda (@PandaJay) March 28, 2017
This piece along with Panda's previous articles in national English dailies has been viewed as an indication of his growing proximity to the BJP and as an indirect attack on Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Responding to a tweet which asked him whether he was ready for the "consequences", Panda said he had done exactly what the party's founder president, Naveen Patnaik, had publicly said they should do. "Can anyone point to anything inaccurate?" he asked.
With churning taking place in BJD, rival BJP is leaving no stone unturned to make inroads in Odisha which goes to polls in 2019 along with the Lok Sabha elections. Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats, while BJD has 20, BJP has just one. Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram had won the reserved constituency of Sundargarh in the lower house.
Of the total 147 Assembly seats, the BJD had won 116 in the 2014 state elections while BJP bagged just 10. Congress came second by winning on 16 seats.
However, buoyed by the impressive performance in the panchayat polls, BJP feels it has bright chances of both - capturing power in the next Assembly elections as well as significantly improving its tally in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The national executive meet is a pointer to that.
Going by the current trend, as BJP intensifies its struggle to wrest power from BJD in Odisha, the ruling party is likely to witness intensified inner wrangling.