Bhubaneswar: In the history of Indian politics, two stalwarts- late Jyoti Basu and Pawan Chamling- earned the coveted distinction of donning the mantle of Chief Minister of a State for the fifth successive term. While Basu ruled neighbouring Bengal, Chamling called the shots in the scenic hilly state of Sikkim. Naveen Patnaik has joined the elite duo with the regional satrap revisiting strong saffron surge and Modi wave earning two third mandate in eastern state.
Patnaik registered emphatic victory yet again since riding to power in 2000. In the process of stamping political authority, the BJD supremo has decimated his rival parties (BJP & Congress) and leaders, reducing them to Lilliputian symbolic entities. The final tally in the assembly poll results- (BJD=112, BJP=23, Congress-10, Independent-1) tell the story of Naveen’s unchallenged sway and mass appeal in the State.
What paved the way for Naveen’s resounding success- That has become a moot point of debate as Patnaik is sworn in as chief minister for the fifth term, a feat no other politician including his legendary father Biju Patnaik could achieve in the eastern State.
Patnaik, who did the role of master strategist to perfection, had embarked on a meticulous election management which his opponents struggled hard to find clue. First of all, he could gauge the anti-incumbency against the sitting MLAs and MPs. He replaced them despite brewing revolt and desertion of some of his party leaders. He took the calculated the risk of replacing sitting 16 sitting MPs and 46 incumbent MLAs to overcome the anti-incumbency factor. In the final analysis, the move has paid rich electoral dividends. The farmers and burning agricultural related plight, women voters also remained on the top of his agenda. His campaign was tactical targeting these sections of voters more than the other strata of electors.
Naveen had prioritised his emphasis on women-centric ‘Mission Shakti’ programme and army of 70 lakh women in self help groups. He knew it well that they are his loyal supporters who having been voting for the regional party elections after elections. In a political masterstroke, he nominated a semi-literate woman and women SHG leader Pramila Bisoyi to contest from Aska Lok Sabha seat. The BJD chief later went ahead to announce 33 per cent quota in LS tickets for women and fielded seven women candidates. Playing women card to the hilt, Naveen could foresee his victory banking on solid and virtually impregnable women vote bank. Success was writ large with five of the women BJD candidates winning their respective Lok Sabha seats. His hand-picked candidate Bisoyi won by whopping 2,04,707 votes. Patnaik had also wooed the women SHG groups with plethora of freebies right from mobile phones to seed money. The government flagship KALIA scheme with Rs 5,000 direct cash transfer for farmers also consolidated his vote bank further. The floating of the Biju Yuva Vahini providing them fiscal incentives from government funds also did a lot to woo the youth voters.
Besides all these, BJD has nurtured meticulously his populist schemes like rice scheme, pension for the poor and housing doles under Biju pucca ghar Jojana.
Contrary to blistering and personalized campaign launched against him by opponents BJP and Congress, Naveen speech was brief and laconic. It apparently appealed the voters more than BJP high voltage poll rallies. In each of the roadshow and poll rally, he had addressed– “are you happy” pausing for a response, before adding “I too am happy”. This was perhaps aimed as a counter to the rabid, often abusive aggressive campaign of the BJP.
His witty references describing national leaders as “election tourists” who never turn up when Odisha faces natural calamity also went down well with the voters. Last but the least, the grass root cadres of the regional party was rock solid and they were the unsung heroes who took homes the message Naveen’s good governance and translated Naveen charisma to votes.