Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s three major parties–Biju Janata Dal (BJD), BJP and Congress—are in the process of selecting candidates for the approaching general elections. While BJD and BJP appear to be making constituency-level assessment at the moment with feedback from their district units, Congress has taken the lead with AICC screening committee members completing scrutiny of applications from several constituencies.
Any such exercise is invidious by its very nature. In the ruling BJD it has induced a sense of fear among the sitting MLAs with party president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik dropping subtle hints about many of them being denied tickets to refurbish party image. While some of them have been embroiled in controversies and corruption cases others have simply failed to deliver as public representatives. Naveen, it would appear, neither wants tainted nor lazy and under-performing MLAs.
Ironically as it may seem despite Naveen’s over-emphasis on transparency and zero tolerance for corruption about half a dozen of BJD leaders have been brought under CBI’s scanner in chit fund-related cases. Some of them have been arrested as well. This has caused immense embarrassment to the party notwithstanding the brave front being put up by BJD spokespersons, who continue to accuse the central agency of being vindictive and the central government of using the CBI as a political tool.
Naveen knows only too well that the spectre of CBI haunting his party is not going to disappear any time soon but with elections knocking at the door, he cannot afford to allow the image of his government and the BJD to be sullied by allegations of corruption against its leaders. His personal image is just as important as the image of his party.
Performance is yet another criterion that the BJD president would bear in mind while handpicking candidates for the 147 assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state. He has been underscoring the importance of performance with his periodical reviews of various departments with ministers concerned. Party MLAs and MPs have also been cautioned time and again against being complacent.
Yet some MLAs and MPs have been found wanting and are almost certain to be denied party tickets, a move that could trigger resentment, a counter-productive factor at the time of elections. The chances of some of these leaders crossing over to other parties after being denied tickets cannot be ruled out with poll time defections being a known phenomenon in the state.
The talk in the BJD circles is that resentment on this account is likely to be minimal in the party as most of the leaders not favoured with tickets would be rehabilitated in some way or other once the party wins the polls which, according to them, is a certainty. The other damage-containing factor would be the realisation that potential defectors, irrespective of the party they choose, are unlikely to win. “ They know they have been winning because of the Chief Minister. Hence, no one would like to take the risk,” goes the argument.
Plausible as this argument may seem Naveen still must tread with utmost caution given the importance of this election which, if won, would make him the chief minister of the state for a record fifth time. Someone about to write history cannot afford to take decisions in a hurry.
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