Is Pandian factor responsible for BJD debacle in Odisha?

The BJP took advantage of this and mounted an aggressive campaign to target Pandian, labelling him as an outsider.
BJD leader and CM Naveen Patnaik's close aide VK Pandian.
BJD leader and CM Naveen Patnaik's close aide VK Pandian. (Photo| ENS)

BHUBANESWAR: As the stint of Naveen Patnaik as the chief minister of Odisha is all set to come to an end on June 10 when a BJP government will take over in the state for the first time, the question is what went wrong for the regional outfit this time which resulted in such a massive defeat in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

Besides the anti-incumbency factor which played a major role, there were several other reasons that ensured the BJD’s capitulation in such a manner that its LS tally was down to one seat from 12 and it is likely to lose more than 60 Assembly seats.

Now that the BJD has lost power, sources in the party have started attributing the loss to chief election strategist and star campaigner VK Pandian. The bureaucrat-turned-politician, a close aide of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, was the only leader who campaigned for the party in all the Assembly and LS seats apart from the CM.

Though there were 40 star campaigners for the party, no leader other than the CM and Pandian campaigned for BJD candidates across the state. Besides, inaccessibility of the CM to even senior party leaders created a perception that Pandian was wielding more power and influencing Naveen in all matters of governance and party organisation.

Sources said the campaign of the CM with Pandian by his side created an antipathy among people and became repetitive which did not attract voters. Though steps were initiated to counter this perception towards the last phase of election, it was too late by then.

The BJP took advantage of this and mounted an aggressive campaign to target Pandian, labelling him as an outsider. The BJP engaged a battery of national leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who launched an aggressive campaign over the issue and promised to restore ‘Odia Asmita’ (Odia pride) once the party came to power in the state.

Pandian was the only campaign issue of BJP in the election, particularly during the last two phases during which the saffron party leaders alleged that the CM was held captive because of his failing health. Some disgruntled party leaders said the people’s antipathy had reached to such an extent that the free power promise of BJD also did not pay any dividend.

Sources in the party said the development plank of BJD did not work in the face of such aggressive campaign by the BJP. The BJD campaign lacked the much-needed punch to counter the continuous onslaught of saffron party leaders particularly Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

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