Will Naveen Patnaik's gamble pay off?

Bhubaneswar, March 30 (IANS): Biju Janata Dal chief and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seems to have played a political gamble by denying ticket to about one-third party legislators and half a dozen members of the outgoing Lok Sabha.

Some of those who faced the axe became rebel candidates, while many others are behind-the-scene troublemakers.

The party managed to persuade some of the rebels from contesting, but their troubles seem to be far from over in as many as 40 assembly seats.

Party vice president Surya Narayan Patro said the rebel candidates will not have any adverse impact on the prospect of his party as winability was one of the major factors taken into consideration while finalising the ticket.

"People will vote for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. People are happy with him. The BJD will retain power for the fourth straight term," Patro told IANS.

The elections to the state's 147-member state assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats would be held simultaneously in two phases April 10 and 17. The BJD won 103 assembly and 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2009.

Patro said this time the BJD could win as many as 125 assembly seats and more than 14 Lok Sabha seats.

But an analyst feels it may not be that easy.

Rabi Das, who has been keenly watching the state's political development for more than four decades, does not see the ruling party benefiting much from this gamble.

"They may retain power, but I think they would lose substantial number of assembly seats and also Lok Sabha seats because of internal dissension," he said.

"Patnaik had also made similar experiments in the past. Dissidence was not visible In the past, but this time one can see it," he said.

Many others who are familiar with 67-year-old Patnaik's style of work said the chief minister has been a risk-taker ever since he entered politics after the death of his father Biju Patnaik in 1997 and his gambles always paid off.

The senior leaders who faced Patnaik's axe this time include former ministers Prafulla Ghadai, Raghunath Mohanty, Anjali Behera, and Duryodhan Majhi.

Behera and Majhi are among those who have been contesting as independents against party candidates, while Mohanty and Ghadai preferred to stay away.

BJD leaders are also contesting as independents in constituencies like Keonjhar, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Ganjam and Dhenkanal districts, creating trouble for the official nominees.

The Naveen Nivas, official residence of the chief minister, witnessed regular protests past weeks by disgruntled leaders and workers, a scene never seen before.

"He should have played safe in this election especially when there is an absence of a strong wave in his favour. Besides Patnaik may not gain as a large number of seats are also set to witness multi-corner contests in view of the emergence of new new political parties," Das said.

If Patnaik is voted for the fourth term, he will have the distinction of becoming the longest serving chief minister of any state in the country after Jyoti Basu, who served for 23 years as chief minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000.


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