Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 31:
With speculation over former Odisha Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang having ended with his announcement of resignation from Congress party on Saturday, talk about him is now centred on his next move.
While his son Sisir has hinted that the senior Gamang would join the BJP, the ruling BJD is making overtures to him.
“If he wants to join the BJD, we have no objection to accepting him in the party,” BJD Vice-President Damodar Rout was quoted as saying today.
“His wife (Hema Gamang) is already in the BJD. I don’t think there would be any resistance to his entry into the party,” Rout said
Notably, Hema, who had joined BJD just weeks before the last elections, was fielded as BJD’s MLA candidate from Laxmipur constituency in Koraput district, but lost.
On the other hand, Sisir Gamang, son of Giridhar, who was the first to break the news about Gamang’s impending resignation, reiterated his earlier statement that suggested the former Union minister is headed the BJP way. “No party is an untouchable for us,” he said during the course of a live television show on leading Odia channel OTV.
According to highly placed sources, Gamang hopping over to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is just a matter of time now as the process for his induction into BJP informally kick-started the day rumours of his quitting the Congress started doing the round. The saffron party, which is hoping to come to power in the state in the 2019 Assembly elections, is banking heavily on the nine-time MP from tribal-dominated Koraput to augment its share of the tribal vote in the state.
Should BJP takes Gamang into its fold, it would be its third major move to retrieve the lost ground in the state through playing the tribal card.
Sample this: first, Odisha’s lone elected parliamentarian from BJP Jual Oram was given a Cabinet berth in the Modi-led NDA government at the Centre, despite poor representation from the state.
Secondly, BJP’s former Rairangpur MLA and a prominent tribal leader from Mayurbhanj Droupadi Murmu was appointed as Governor of Jharkhand, sending a message across that the national party is giving priority to women’s representation and tribals’ upliftment. The former minister in the BJP-BJD combine in the state was away from active politics for quite some time.
Grapevine has it that several national BJP leaders had closed-door meetings with the former Odisha chief minister. They perceive that the tribal leader would be an asset for the party and act as a trump card besides strengthening the party’s organisation at the grassroots level in the tribal districts.
As per BJP’s political arithmetic, Congress has lost its grip on the tribal vote bank in the state, which was once considered its pocket borough. This was evident in the last Assembly election when it failed to woo the tribal voters and won only 6 out of the 33 reserved constituencies. Besides, the tribal voters play a key role in as many as 25 constituencies in the state and the grand old party’s vote share has been consistently on the decline in all these places.
Political pundits say that the tribals, who stood solidly behind the Congress for long, have now swayed towards the BJP and the BJD in Odisha. Though it has not converted into seats for BJP, its vote percentage has increased by as much as 8 percent. The BJP had polled 24 percent of the tribal vote share in the 2014 elections which was quite encouraging notwithstanding the fact that it fared poorly in these pockets in terms of seats won.
The pundits see Gamang’s entry into BJP as a strategic manoeuvre to amass tribal votes.
Sources said that a senior tribal leader of BJP is not keen on inducting Gamang into the party. However, it is learnt that the national party has already positioned Gamang as a frontline tribal leader who would be among the torchbearers for the party in the state. He would likely be inducted into the party at a programme in New Delhi soon.
Reacting to the political development, the state BJP president KV Singhdeo said, there has been no discussion on this and it is too early to comment on this.
The veteran politician’s exit from the grand old party signifies that the party is crumbling. It would witness further decline in the state and at the national level in future, he added.
On the other hand, OPCC president Prasad Harichandan said, “Giridhar Gamang has resigned from the party under duress. It would be clear very soon under what circumstances he took this decision. Moreover, the reason he is citing after 16 years that he suffered humiliation in the hands of party leadership for having voted against the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government during a no-confidence motion in Parliament on April 17, 1999, is unacceptable.”