Naveen puts more distance between him,othershttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/naveen-puts-more-distance-between-him-others/

Naveen puts more distance between him,others

Of the 20 urban local bodies in the region,the BJD won 15 while the Congress and BJP had to be content with one each.

Of the 20 urban local bodies in the region,the BJD won 15 while the Congress and BJP had to be content with one each.

If any confirmation was needed of the BJD’s organisational strength and electoral planning,recent victory in the urban local body polls of western Orissa provided as much. Of the 20 urban local bodies in the region,the BJD won 15 while the Congress and BJP had to be content with one each. The BJD is expected to sew up a majority in at least two more bodies.

This victory came close on the heels of the BJD’s emphatic win two months ago in 49 of 66 urban local bodies. Earlier,in the panchayat polls held in February last year,the party had won zilla parishad chief posts in 26 of 30 districts.

After 13 years in power,the ruling BJD,one would assume,would be showing effects of anti-incumbency. However,as the latest results underlined,Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik continues to buck the trend. On the contrary,this will raise his stature even further as western Orissa has been long considered the BJD’s weak spot,more inclined to go with the Congress and BJP. However,the BJD won in even districts like Kalahandi and Sambalpur where the Congress has its MPs.

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However,it would be wrong to attribute the BJD’s win solely to the popularity of Naveen,though he undoubtedly remains way ahead of other leaders in the state. The fact is that the CM prepared well for the urban local body polls,including charting out a detailed campaign plan marshalling his resources.

In comparison,the opposition Congress is a badly divided house,with new PCC chief Jaydev Jena seeming like little more than a sectarian leader. The BJP is also equally rudderless as the party’s new state chief commands hardly any respect outside his home turf of Bolangir. Still,it is early days yet to presume that Naveen will translate his current success into an Assembly election victory. At least half of the BJD’s sitting MLAs may need to be replaced,and the CM won’t be able to concentrate party machinery in trouble spots like he could do in the case of urban bodies.

Another thing probably weighing on Naveen’s mind is the Shah Commission report on Orissa mining. The Congress could potentially hurt the BJD government with a tactful release of the report near the polls.

Debabrata is a special correspondent based in Bhubaneswar

debabrata.mohanty@expressindia.com

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