Bhubaneswar, Feb. 18: As the countdown for the elections begins, the BJD seems to be facing a problem of plenty. With too many high-profile aspirants vying for party tickets, chief minister Naveen Patnaik finds himself in a dilemma.
Apart from dealing with this embarrassment of riches, the chief minister needs to strike the right balance between political veterans and fresh faces drawn, preferably from a cross-section of the society to counter the AAP effect, while selecting candidates.
The aspirations of a large number of youth leaders of the party also have to be taken into account.
That makes it a tough call for Naveen while triggering a wave of apprehension among ticket-seekers.
A Delhi-bred socialite who was practically shanghaied into filling his father, Biju Patnaik’s shoes, in 1997, Naveen is not a run-of-the-mill politician and prone to making experiments.
By sending the likes of movie star Siddhant Mohapatra and hockey ace Dilip Tirkey to Parliament, he has made it clear that he is looking beyond traditional politicians to expand his party’s footprints.
More recently, he backed sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra for the Rajya Sabha elections though he narrowly lost. A master tactician, Naveen has come to realise the vote catching appeal of freshers from other walks of life such as in the current scenario where the politics of the country is being redefined by the fledgling AAP which seems to be a negation of conventional politics.
But even as Naveen gears up to counter the AAP effect by roping in movie stars and others, he cannot turn his back on loyal BJD leaders who have toiled to build the party.
With the number of ticket hopefuls among them growing, he has to tread with extreme caution as any rash decision could expose his flock to poaching by the likes of Odisha Jan Morcha leader, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra.
“There is no denying the anxiety among the ticket aspirants within the party as they all know that conch symbol is their passport to victory. The chief minister will be doing a tight ropewalk,” said a senior BJD leader.
The young BJD ticket hopefuls are making no bones about their aspirations.
“I have been working for the party since 1990. I have applied for a ticket and hope to get justice,” said Durga Samantaray, one of the hopefuls.
Similarly views are expressed by BJD youth wing general secretary, Bijay Nayak and former BJD student wing president Ranjit Mohapatra. Mohapatra. Some of the aspirants have already put up their posters in the constituencies they intend to contest from.
The party today announced the launch of a 13-day “Sankha bajao swabhiman banchao” (blow the conch and save Odia pride) programme from February 20.
“The sound of the conch will be heard in every nook and corner of the state. The programme will be launched by the chief minister from his constituency, Hinjilikatu, in Ganjam,” said BJD vice-president, Kalpataru Das.
The BJD will organise three major conventions in Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Sambalpur on March 5, the birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik.