Bhubaneswar, Jan. 6: The BJP has failed to resurrect itself in Odisha, where its performance touched the nadir in 2009 when it could manage only seven seats in the Assembly.
Fierce factionalism, lack of a clear-cut roadmap for the future and a curious reluctance to take up popular issues have left the party struggling to regain lost ground. Internal squabbles continue to stall a consensus on the successor to the outgoing state unit president Jual Oram.
There is growing discontent within the party over deviation of the leadership from issues that had turned BJP into a formidable force in state politics in the nineties.
“We registered our first major victories in western Odisha by building up movements based on the absence of development in the area.
“Our efforts culminated in the constitution of Western Odisha Development Council. However, we have totally forgotten such issues now and that is to blame for the party’s current situation here,” said a disgruntled leader, who did not want to be named.
The fight of the BJP to bring the guilty in the mining scam to justice and its battle to save the Mahanadi river, both having struck a chord with the masses.
However, these movements are being credited to individual leaders such as Bijay Mohapatra than being seen as the collective efforts of the party. The occasional focus on individual leaders has done little to improve the overall image of the party in the state.
Former state president Suresh Pujari seems disillusioned with the present state of affairs in the party and blames it on the lack of initiative to take senior leaders into confidence over important issues.
“The system of holding consultations with seniors seems to have been discontinued,” he said pointing out that ever since BJP’s defeat in the 2009 elections, it has gone from bad to worse.
State BJP vice-president and firebrand leader Ashok Sahu feels that the party made a serious tactical blunder by not ending its alliance with Biju Janata Dal in the wake of VHP leader Laxmananand Saraswati’s murder in August 2008.
“Even pro-RSS elements did not vote for us because they thought the BJP had become self-centred. To make things worse, the image of some of our ministers had taken a beating,” said Sahu.
Oram, too, agrees that the party had failed to take advantage of Saraswati’s murder.
“Had we pulled out of the government at that juncture, we would have sent out a clear message to the electorate. But we did not do that and when coalition collapsed on the eve of 2009 elections, we were taken by complete surprise,” he said.
The former Union minister, however, thinks that the situation has changed drastically since 2009 and the party organisation has become stronger now.
He also thinks that the electorate knows for sure that that the party is now seeking votes on its own.
“The confusion of the alliance has disappeared,” he remarked.
But most others in the state unit disagree with Oram’s assessment and call for drastic changes in the organisation to bring the party back on the track in the state, which may opt for early polls.
“We are in deep mess. A thorough overhaul is the only option we have,” said a senior leader.