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BJD trying to strike an emotional chord with voters to counter aggressive BJP in Odisha

Voters before casting a vote for the Odisha Assembly Election 2024, at Gopalpur in Ganjam district on May 13, 2024.

Voters before casting a vote for the Odisha Assembly Election 2024, at Gopalpur in Ganjam district on May 13, 2024.
| Photo Credit: ANI

Amidst the acrimonious exchange of words between Bharatiya Janata Party and Biju Janata Dal in the ongoing simultaneous elections in Odisha, the regional party is raking up the issue of personal attacks on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to strike an emotional chord with voters.

For the past week, the BJP leadership has intensified attacks on V.K. Pandian, a close aide of the Odisha CM. The BJP has been raising the issue of Odia Asmita (Odia pride), blaming the Tamil Nadu-born Mr. Pandian for controlling Mr. Patnaik, and has tried to create a ‘Odia versus non-Odia’ narrative to reap political dividend.

As the Odisha CM focuses on listing out his government’s flagship welfare schemes in his campaign speeches, most of the batting is left to Mr. Pandian who accompanies the former to public meetings in different districts.

Besides, Mr. Pandian, who is a former private secretary to Mr. Patnaik and Chairman of 5T Initiative, has been touring various districts himself and conducting roadshows to garner public support. What he did in the past few public meetings was highlighting BJP leaders’ criticism of Odisha CM.

“A Union Minister [Dharmendra Pradhan] is using uncivilised words against our beloved CM. He is disrespecting Mr. Patnaik and scolding him slanderously. It hurts us,” said the bureaucrat-turned-politician at a public meeting in Hindol in Dhenkanal district on Monday.

“There is nobody like our CM, who stands behind 4.5 crore people, always attuned to their needs in both good and bad times. We should respond appropriately when such slanderous language is being used against a leader of very high stature,” he averred.

Also Read | Flagging Odia asmita, BJP top leaders make a beeline for poll-bound Odisha

“During Bijepur byelection, BJP leaders tried to throw shoes at the Odisha CM and people made sure BJD won by a margin of 40,000 votes. While returning after laying foundation stone for Shree Mandir Parikrama Project in Puri, the Odisha CM’s vehicle was attacked with eggs by cadre of BJP at the instigation of the Union Minister. I was there in the vehicle with the CM,” Mr. Pandian continued.

“Subsequently, the BJP lost all 30 zilla parishad elections. This time also, the BJP is going to lose the election very badly especially as the said Union Minister is personally launching attacks on our beloved CM,” he said.

Political analysts termed it as a smart move saying that Mr. Pandian was trying to deflate attack on him using Odisha CM’s image.

“As the issue of ‘Odia versus non-Odia’ is debated hotly across State, playing victim card using Odisha CM’s aura is one kind of aggression. The BJD may reap electoral benefits out of it,” said Rabi Das, veteran journalist and political commentator.

The BJP on Monday accused Mr. Pandian of isolating Odisha CM from Odisha leaders and making him captive. Two days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dared Mr. Patnaik to read out names of all districts without referring to prepared text.