By Dr.Sasmit Patra
In politics, dissidents and factions within a political party gravitate towards opposing political parties seeking greener pastures. Logically, the disgruntled elements unhappy with Naveen Patnaik and or Pyari Mohan Mohapatra would have gravitated towards the Congress or BJP looking for better alternatives. But now in the BJD, a unique gravitational force defying political dynamics is at work. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This proverb is credited to Arabian and Chinese folklore. But it is now in vogue in the Biju Janata Dal. BJD leaders and workers unhappy with Naveen are gravitating to Pyari, hoping Pyari will provide succor to them since Naveen is perceived as Pyari’s enemy. Likewise, the BJD rank and file unhappy with Pyari is gravitating to Naveen as Pyari is perceived as the BJD supremo’s numero uno enemy. But these political dynamics have effectively reduced the possibilities of attrition and worker turnover of BJD, choking migration of BJD foot soldiers and their masters to the Congress and BJP and effectively ensuring no lifelines to the opposition. The coup has been a blessing in disguise for the BJD and the party is emerging stronger through this coup with these under-currents at play.
Perceptions are deceptive and in politics they make or mar electoral fortunes. Perceptions run on a premise that “we perceive as we are not as things are”. Leaders like Naveen and Pyari are masters at manipulating social contexts and situations and then subtly prodding people to form perceptions and then using the perceptions to score political victories. The perception of the people of Odisha over the past twelve years on BJD has been that there are two personalities who have dominated the party’s mainframe, Naveen Patnaik and Pyari Mohan Mohapatra. An infallible combination, that rode successfully to the Vidhan Sabha in 2004 and 2009. Many predicted the downfall of the BJD in 2009 after splitting with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the Naveen-Pyari duo held fort and won the trophy for the BJD; game, set and match.
The perceptions gained currency that with Naveen-Pyari riding together into the sunset, the BJD would live happily ever after. But the split between Naveen and Pyari germinated a thousand questions in the peoples mind. The perception was that now BJD had weakened, it had started journeying to its end. I have been interacting with BJD sympathizers cutting across different sections of society and each one has rather wistfully hoped that this split had never come about. They still hope that if the marriage of Naveen and Pyari had stayed on, then BJD without batting an eyelid would have had a home run in 2014. They curse at Pyari publicly but in their heart of hearts know his utility for the BJD.
Lets for a moment hypothesize a situational context. Over the next seventeen months prior to the 2014 elections, Naveen and Pyari continue on their separate paths, with BJD’s discontented elements gravitating to either of them and both Naveen-Pyari intermittently sparring at each other. The BJD closer to December, 2013 looks weaker and probably a thousand conspiracy theories rent the air of Naveen Niwas all looking at Pyari as the nemesis. The Congress cadre smells an opportunity like they did in 2009 and Advani rubs his hands in glee and thrusts them at Naveen for a BJD-BJP alliance for 2014. Naveen shrugs it off stating that BJP is communal and would not like to do business with them.
BJD rank and file fears that Pyari would post dummy candidates and undertake electoral sabotaging to destroy Naveen. Amidst this uncertainty, we have Prem Patnaik and Geeta Mehta, the siblings of Naveen from London and New York respectively flying into Bhubaneswar. They drive down to Pyari’s residence in Saheed Nagar, remind him of Late Biju Patnaik’s legacy and call on him to return home to the Late Biju Babu’s ideology and his son, Naveen. Pyari drives back to Naveen Niwas escorted by Prem and Geeta. Naveen rushes out to the portio. Both Pyari and Naveen hug each other, eyes go moist, emotions go swirling, the “zindabads” rent the air and finally the prodigal son Pyari returns home, to the gladness of the Patnaik family. The cameras beam live pictures, the flashes go crazy and the Biju Janata Dal cadre feels a swell of relief surging through their veins.
Such a situation may sound “filmy” but if played out could herald an undisputed home run for the BJD in 2014. The BJD elements associated with Naveen and Pyari respectively unite; election tickets are given out jointly, no political sabotage, no dummy candidates, no negative press; a united BJD house against a divided opposition. Taking the wind out of the opposition’s sails would sound like an understatement then.
The million dollar question is that whether this play will actually play out? The multi-billion dollar question is that has this play been already planned? Is this play being present played out and we the people are being guided and goaded to form perceptions that actually suits the play of Naveen-Pyari duo. Was the botched coup stage-managed and if it was at all true, how come none of the perpetrators have been dismissed or expelled from the party? Suspension is not a punishment.
Pyari’s blatant bid at power has been played with kid gloves by Naveen and all have gone back to town hunky-dory for Sangma’s election. For the last scene of this Shakespearan-like act to play out, we will have to wait but while waiting let’s not assume for a moment that BJD has weakened, its infact getting stronger by the day with dissidence being kept in perceptual good humour. BJD has started the walk to 2014, albeit surreptitiously.