‘Be Petty In Victory’: All-Conquering BJD’s Credo  

“Be magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat,” they say. But the ruling BJD appears to have turned this old adage on its head, if its conduct over the last few years in general – and the period since the last panchayat and urban elections in particular – is anything to go by.

Nothing illustrates the all-conquering regional party’s firm belief in the ‘Be petty in victory’ credo than two incidents since its stupendous victory in the urban polls, which came on top of a virtual tsunami in the panchayat elections just before it. The first – and the most recent – is, of course, the decision not to invite Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi for the Foundation Day celebrations of the Capital City on Wednesday. It is unthinkable that a decision of such immense political import could have been taken by a lowly government official. The fact that no one from then government or the ruling party has come out with a cogent explanation for the glaring omission suggests it could not have been a simple, innocent case of oversight. Information and Public Relations (I&PR) minister Raghunandan Das has exhibited ignorance while both Speaker Surjya Narayan Patro and head of the organizing committee Pradosh Patnaik have said the MP ‘should have been invited’. We may never really see the ‘unseen hand’ that struck off Sarangi’s name from the list of invitees. But there is little doubt that it was a deliberate act to slight her, probably for her ‘crime’ of garnering well over a lakh of votes for the BJP’s little-known mayoral candidate for the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) almost entirely on her own.

The other side of this upturned adage was in evidence when bulldozers rammed into the flourishing Ganesh Mandap daily market in Jharpada area of Bhubaneswar and razed over 300 shops to ground in the wee hours of the morning on April 8. The BMC and the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) can keep claiming till the cows come home that it was a routine eviction drive undertaken after due notice to the ‘squatters’. But the circumstances of this pre-dawn operation certainly make it hard to dismiss out of hand the vendors’ allegation that they were being ‘punished’ for having voted the BJP candidate as corporator from the ward. For one thing, the authorities exhibited unseemly haste in evicting this particular bunch of encroachers when dozens of other areas in the city remain merrily occupied by other sets of ‘encroachers’; the notice was served at 9 pm the previous night! For another, the timing of the drive – 5 am in the morning – hints at a clear design to catch the vendors unawares.

Of course, this trait of intolerance and going after those who refuse to toe the line on the part of the ruling party has been in ample evidence in the past too. Two incidents – about three years apart – in the party’s last term in office (from 2014 to 2019) bear testimony to the fact that this trait is not a recent acquisition. The first of these came barely months after the 2014 election when the government, in a move with few parallels, instituted a vigilance inquiry against the then DGP Prakash Mishra, allegedly for some improprieties during his tenure as Chairman of the Police Housing Corporation. But if the grapevine is to be believed, the real reason for the government’s vindictive act was his ‘audacity’ in ordering the interception of vehicles carrying BJD cash for distribution among voters during the 2014 elections. So pissed off was the Naveen Patnaik dispensation that even a sharp rap on the knuckle by the Orissa High Court, which dismissed the case with a scathing indictment of the then vigilance director KB Singh, did not deter it from going in appeal against the HC ruling to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, however, it received another sharp rap on the knuckles by the apex court despite hiring one of the top lawyers whose daily fees are in lakhs. Curiously, the indicted vigilance director went on to become the next DGP!

The second incident came in 2018 in the run up to the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar. In a move that smacked of pettiness and vendetta, the government barred entry to this marquee event held at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar for reporters and crews of media houses critical of it. The same media houses were also denied – and continue to be denied – the generous advertising released by the government on the occasion and in the years since then.

Observers would tell you that this adherence to the George Bush credo of “You are either with us or against us” on the part of the BJD is a post-2014 phenomenon. But since it doesn’t appear to have affected the electoral fortunes of the party – if anything, it seems to have added to its popularity – it is unlikely that the BJD would play the ‘magnanimous in victory’ tune anytime soon. 

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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