Worried over anti-incumbency, BJD chants ‘Naveen-for-PM’ mantra

OST Political Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Jan 2:

Worried over a possible anti-incumbency wave and division of votes due to the rebel factor in the 2014 general elections, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) think-tank is into kite-flying mode now.

This is clear from the desperate efforts by party leaders to project the BJD’s sole vote-catcher Naveen Patnaik as big enough to lead the country and use it as a poll plank. In fact, they are vying with one another to project Naveen as the future Prime Minister of India.

Naveen Patnaik
Naveen Patnaik

On Thursday, BJD vice-president and Revenue and Disaster management minister Surya Narayan Patro told reporters that CPI and CPI(M) wanted Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take the leadership of the proposed Third Front.

Earlier, another party vice-president and senior minister Dr Damodar Rout, while talking of the proposed Third Front, had said that Naveen Patnaik’s had a cleaner image as a politician than many other leaders at the national level.

While it is a fact that CPI leader A B Bardhan and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury did meet with Naveen Patnaik recently and requested him to take leadership of the proposed Third Front, the reasons why they did so is pretty obvious, at least to the political circles here.

“Nothing works like flattery,” said a senior political analyst commenting on the Left leaders’ ‘request’.

“These Left parties, which do not have even an outside chance of winning a single seat in the state, want BJD to grant them a few assembly and a couple of Lok Sabha constituencies in the 2014 polls. And the best way to wrest the concessions is to massage Naveen’s ego,” he added.

While conceding that BJD has far less clout than the AIDMK, Trinamool or Samajwadi Party in terms of numerical strength in the Lok Sabha, a senior BJD leader asked; “If Devegowda could become Prime Minister, why not Naveen?”

“The reason BJD leaders are projecting Naveen Patnaik as the prime ministerial candidate of a non-existent Third Front is that hey know the so-called clean image of their leader has taken some real beating over the last two years. All its pre-poll sops and doles may not be enough to counter the anti-incumbency wave, factors like rebels  which could turn nasty after ticket distribution and of course the fallout of Shah Commission’s report on huge mining scam is a major source of worry,” said a senior Congress leader.

Interestingly, Naveen Patnaik, who has all along been saying he is happy ‘serving the people of Odisha’, has little issues with the efforts by his party men to project him as a prime ministerial candidate.

Although he has made it clear that BJD will have no truck with the ‘corrupt’ Congress and the ‘communal’ BJP, he has given no indication as yet that he will join the Third Front. One reason why he is not willing to do so, according to a leading political observer, is because of the Sangma fiasco.

“It is a case of once bitten twice shy. Naveen has had to suffer ignominy and loss of face when he tried to play PA Sangma’s patron in the last Presidential election. That explains why he is keeping himself aloof from all speculations about his possible role in the Third Front,” a senior journalist said. .

“But as a clever vote-catcher, he obviously sees no harm if Left leaders and his party men choose to sell him as the future prime minister,” he added.

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