By Sandeep Sahu
It has got to be the joke of this election: the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), of all parties, asking for donation from the public and even going on to proffer ‘five reasons’ why you and I should donate to the party.
Netizens, by now, must be familiar with the ad blitzkrieg, complete with a donation form and a payment gateway, on the net, particularly social media, seeking money from the public.
One can understand the ‘One Note, One Vote’ campaign launched by the BJP and even explain it away as only the latest in the series of gimmicks that Narendra Modi’s whiz kids have come up with. One may even rationalise the American style, Rs 20, 000 a head fund-raising dinner organised for AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal by his party colleague and former Infosys honcho V Balakrishnan in Bangalore. But why on earth does the BJD need funds to fight the elections?
Even as the online fund raising campaign was on, party supremo Naveen Patnaik flagged off on Sunday a fleet of 70 hi tech vehicles (only for the first phase of the polls, mind you), each of them fitted with an LED screen that can be elevated up to 10 feet height for ‘better viewing’ and display content directly downloaded from the internet, a sound system, internet facility, satellite TV and power back-up. The price of all this gizmo: Rs 7 lakh a vehicle.
This works out to a small matter of Rs 10.29 crores. Add the hiring charges, the fuel bill and the fees of the large team of professionals hired from outside – till the end of the election campaign – and you get a fair idea of the sum to be spent on this single prop to ‘highlight’ the alleged achievements of the BJD government in the last 14 years and to ‘project’ the profile of the most popular leader in the history of the state – and maybe even the country. [One wonders though why the ‘achievements’, if they are real and not imagined ones, need to be sold to the electorate or – for that matter – why the darling of the ‘four crore Odias’ needs to project his profile after 14 years of ruling the land!]
As any BJD leader worth his dhoti would tell you in private but would never admit in public, props like the hi tech vehicles are peanuts compared to the actual amount going to be spent by the party in this election. As they say in Hindi; “Haathi ke dant khane ke aur, dikhane ke aur hote hain.” With the Election Commission threatening to play spoilsport, there is only so much that you can spend publicly. Away from the public glare and out of the reach of the EC, the party would end up spending, at the very least, 10 times (those with an inside dope on such things maintain that it is closer to 100 times) the amount spent ‘officially’.
Surely, the BJD does not expect to generate that kind of money from public donations.
Now, let us examine the ‘Five reasons why you should donate to BJD’ – one by one.
· Shri Naveen Patnaik’s selfless dedication
Our CM is the torchbearer of Biju Babu’s majestic legacy. Frequently voted as the most popular Chief Minister, he has devoted his life for the development of Odisha.
After systemically dismantling, brick by brick, the edifice called the Biju Legacy, the claim that ‘Our CM’ is the ‘torchbearer’ of the legacy is not only an insult to the great man, but also to his legions of admirers in the state and elsewhere. Naveen Patnaik is everything that his late father was not; cool, calculating, manipulative and ruthless.
Just two examples – both from the BJD’s official website – would prove how the entire edifice of Naveen’s claim to “Biju Babu’s majestic legacy’ is built with bricks made of untruth.
The ‘About BJD’ section on the site makes the astounding claim that the party ‘was founded on 26 December 1997 with a deep-rooted secularism’, among other things. [It is backed up with that now famous ‘Each bone of my body is secular’ claim having pride of place in the section on Naveen Patnaik.] For those who don’t know (or have forgotten), a few days later the newly born party entered into an alliance with the BJP, a party that Naveen’s father considered ‘communal’ till his last breath – something that took the BJD supremo 11 long years to discover.
The second example is from the ‘BJD Sandesh’ section of the party website, which makes the equally preposterous claim that “Odisha Chief Minister and BJD supremo Shri Naveen Patnaik is passionate about the Biju Parivar. XXX The BJD party President is emotionally connected to the Biju Parivar and wants it to grow; united and stronger.”
After having paved the way for the exit of every prominent member of the Biju Parivar – Bijay Mohapatra, Ramakrushna Patnaik, Nalini Kanta Mohanty, Sarat Kar, Dilip Ray et al – the claim that the party president wants it to be ‘united’ is laughable to say the least.
Let us now return to the second part of the first reason. “Frequently voted as the most popular Chief Minister, he has devoted his life for the development of Odisha.” For the record, Naveen Patnaik was already 47 when he parachuted to Odisha from his ivory tower, never to get off its back again. If he spent those 47 years ‘for the development of Odisha’, I doubt if anybody was aware of it. In fact, I dare say Naveen himself would be amused no end to find that he spent those years, when he was, by all accounts, having a whale of a time in the socialite circles of Delhi, ‘for the development of Odisha’!
· Build a better Odisha, a better India
His perseverance has made Odisha the second fastest developing economy of the country. Your vote will help us continue the good work.
The state that is supposedly ‘the second fastest developing economy of the country’ is also the state that has stubbornly refused to yield its place as the poorest state in the country during the 14 years of BJD rule. Your vote would indeed help the BJD continue the ‘good work’: of ensuring that Odisha’s position as the poorest state is not threatened at least for the next five years – so that it can continue to press for special category status and blame the Centre for not giving it!!
· Strong stand against corruption
The party leader propagates corruption-free governance. It’s no wonder that ‘Mr Clean’ has been elected as the CM of Odisha for three times. His regime is not tainted by any scandal compared to previous Congress rules.
The claim that ‘His regime is not tainted by ANY scandal’ is nothing short of hilarious. There is at least one major scandal for every year that the BJD has spent in government: the mining scam, the chit fund scam, the land scam, the dal scam, the Babina Behera scandal, the Itishree Pradhan scandal … you name it. Perhaps aware that such a claim would be difficult to swallow even for those well disposed towards it, it adds a rider: ‘compared to previous Congress rules.’ But why on earth does ‘Mr Clean’, elected as the CM of Odisha for three times, seek to be assessed in comparison to a regime that ended 14 years ago?
· Merits and accolades
The state has registered an unprecedented economic growth ensuring progress in all spheres in the last 14 years. UN also honoured the CM for extra-ordinary efforts undertaken during cyclone Phailin.
Since the bit about the ‘unprecedented economic growth ensuring progress in all spheres’ has already been dealt with, let us examine the second part. Does the CM really believe that people should vote for his government because he received a piece of paper from a UN body for his government’s dubious claim of evacuating 9 lakh people in the 24 hours leading up to Cyclone Phailin?
Even if the claim is genuine, why should a farmer in Atabira vote for the BJD when he sees his share of Mahanadi water shrinking by the day as the government keeps giving it away to private companies (presumably not for any private consideration, but in the interest of the ‘larger public good’)?
·Vision and goals
CM’s vision is to put Odisha on high growth path and deliver good governance. His future goals include:
o Sustainable employment for all
o Women empowerment and self-reliance
o Corruption-free society.
‘Sustainable development’!!! Try telling that to the betel growers of Jagatsinghpur, the land losers of the Angul-Talcher industrial corridor or the forest dependent tribals of Niyamgiri.
Women in the state have been so empowered in the BJD regime that they think not twice, but ten times before approaching the police after being tortured for dowry, harassed at the workplace or sexually assaulted! They have to knock on the doors of the Women’s Commission (which, by the way, is of little use), the Human Rights Commission, the courts and – as the last resort – the media to merely get an FIR registered. Some empowerment this! [Of course, it is possible to argue that the very fact that women can now approach these agencies after being rebuffed by the police proves that they have indeed been empowered!!]
And now the last claim: a ‘corruption-free society.’ The point to note is that the ‘vision’ is not a corruption-free government, but only a ‘corruption-free society’. Thus, even as the BJD government goes about its goal of building a ‘corruption-free society’, there is nothing to stop it from indulging in corruption.
If you still have reasons to donate to the party, go do it now. All you have to do is to log on to http://donate.bjdodisha.org. in.
Sandeep Sahu is the Executive Editor, odishasuntimes.com