Friendly Electoral Match Between BJD and BJP or Emerging Class Collaboration in Odisha Politics

Naveen Patnaik

Amidst the flurry of frantic speculations, clandestine discussions, and fleeting moments of camaraderie, the anticipation of an electoral alliance between the ruling BJD and the opposition BJP fizzled out. The BJP decided to go alone in the forthcoming elections. The aspirations of Mr. Naveen Patnaik to position himself as a junior partner to the BJP were dashed as the BJP chose to distance itself from any such arrangement, ultimately abandoning his overtures. Despite the failed attempts to forge a formal political alliance due to issues regarding seat sharing, the brotherhood between the BJP and BJD appears to only strengthen. What seems to emerge is a facade of a friendly electoral contest between the ruling BJD and the opposition BJP. However, in reality, these two parties have orchestrated a mockery of democracy within the state, eroding the trust of the people in the democratic electoral processes as the bonhomie between the two continues.

The apparent friendly electoral match between the BJD and BJP in the forthcoming elections in Odisha may indeed be indicative of a deeper phenomenon: class collaboration in state politics. While on the surface, the two parties may engage in electoral competition, their underlying alignment on key issues and policies suggests a shared interest in serving certain privileged classes or elites. This collaboration, whether explicit or implicit, can have significant implications for governance and policymaking, potentially side-lining the needs and concerns of marginalised masses in the state.

In the annals of political history, there exists no ruling party nor leader quite like Mr. Naveen Patnaik, who has demonstrated a unique penchant for surrender and squandering away the vast reservoir of mass support he once commanded in Odisha for over two decades. His relentless endeavours to forge political alliances with Hindutva forces have not only weakened the BJD but have also tarnished his political image within the state. Indeed, tracing back to the inception of his political career, Mr. Naveen Patnaik has maintained close ties with the BJP, whether through direct collaboration or indirect support of various political projects and governance policies. As asserted by the Congress party, there exists a symbiotic relationship between the BJD and the BJP, suggesting an inseparable bond that transcends mere political alliances.

Mr. Naveen Patnaik appears to have retreated from the political fray and disengaged from the intricate processes of governance, as though he is under immense pressure from the BJP. His demeanour suggests a sense of resignation, as if he is encircled by the looming spectre of vindictive Hindutva politics, instilling a palpable fear within him.  Rarely does a political leader with such a formidable mass base and a strong political party apparatus exhibit the propensity for surrender seen in Mr. Patnaik.

The political capitulation of the BJD under the stewardship of Mr. Patnaik towards the BJP and its leadership exemplifies a form of class collaboration in Odisha politics. These dynamic blurs the lines between the BJD and BJP, particularly in their approach to politics, policies, and governance issues. Their shared outlook extends to matters of economic development, where the welfare of the masses often takes a back seat to the relentless pursuit of political power through any means necessary, regardless of political and ethical considerations. Today, Odisha politics seems to have devolved into an ideology-free zone, where discernible differences between political parties and their leadership are scant or altogether absent.

The ideological underpinnings of mainstream political parties and their leadership often stem from a foundation rooted in higher caste and class affiliations. These dynamic fosters an environment conducive to the politics of class collaboration, allowing those from higher castes to govern the masses with relative ease, devoid of significant political resistance in the state. Whether the BJD and BJP maintain a formal political alliance or not, the distinction becomes increasingly negligible, as both parties, when in power, tend to advance each other’s interests within and outside the state.

The strong class collaboration between the BJD and BJP suggests a cooperative relationship wherein both parties, despite ideological or superficial differences, work together to serve the interests of privileged classes or elites, often at the expense of the broader populace in the state. This collaboration can manifest in various forms, including policy alignment, mutual support in elections, or shared governance objectives that prioritise the interests of certain socioeconomic groups over others.

Patnaik dreams are fraudulent dreams like American dreams. While the American Dream is characterised by ideals of individual achievement, success, upward mobility, and societal progress, labelling Patnaik’s dreams as fraudulent implies a lack of authenticity or substance. After two decades of experience, it suggests that the promises or aspirations put forward by Patnaik is perceived as deceitful or unattainable, failing to materialise into tangible benefits for the people of Odisha. Such a comparison underscores a sentiment of scepticism or disillusionment regarding Patnaik’s leadership and the fulfilment of his vision for the state.

In this context, the people of Odisha deserve an alternative politics that transcends the class collaboration seen between the BJP and BJD. This alternative should be grounded in principles of social justice, economic and political empowerment, electoral transparency, secularism, cultural inclusivity, and participatory governance models. By prioritizing policies and initiatives aimed at uplifting marginalised communities, addressing socioeconomic disparities, and empowering individuals from all backgrounds, Odisha can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society. It’s through such concerted efforts that the state can truly realise its democratic potential and ensure that all its citizens have the opportunity to thrive and participate fully in the democratic process and access equal resources available in the state.

An alternative politics in Odisha can only harness all available natural resources in the state for the collective welfare of its people. By effectively managing and leveraging these resources, the state can generate sustainable economic growth, create employment opportunities, and improve the overall standard of living for its citizens. This approach requires a commitment to responsible and equitable resource allocation, ensuring that the benefits derived from these resources are distributed fairly and contribute to the advancement of health, education, and wellbeing of all segments of society. Additionally, prioritising environmental sustainability and conservation efforts is essential to safeguarding the long-term viability of Odisha’s natural assets for future generations.

The urgency for alternative politics in Odisha is palpable, especially in light of the disillusionment caused by fraudulent promises and stagnant governance under the Patnaik administration. The time is ripe for transformative change that prioritises the genuine welfare of the state’s people. Embracing an alternative political vision rooted in transparency, accountability, and the empowerment of all citizens is imperative to address the pressing issues facing Odisha. This moment calls for bold leadership and collective action to chart a new course that fulfils the aspirations of the populace and builds a more equitable, progressive, peaceful, prosperous, secular, and scientific future for the state.

Bhabani Shankar Nayak, University of Glasgow, UK

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