An intense power struggle within the BJP threatens to upset its electoral prospects in Odisha as the ‘one man army’ Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, for the first time in four years, finds a group attempting to dilute his ‘authority’ in the party.
Ever since the installation of a ‘light weight’ in Basant Panda as the state BJP chief four years ago replacing veteran leader and former minister K V Singh Deo, Dharmendra Pradhan had been calling the shots in the party.
With his immense clout at Delhi, Pradhan instilled a sense of awe among others, including senior leaders. He successfully marginalised many stalwarts in the party, all of whom had remained silent fearing reprisal.
Pradhan is the blue eyed boy of party president Amit Shah and nobody dare speak against him was the line whispered in BJP circles. The RSS, which is also faction ridden in the state, had reportedly given its feedback but did not evoke any corrective response from the party, revealed a senior leader of the RSS. The resourceful Dharmendra Pradhan dominated the BJP and worked tirelessly for four years touring the state building the party with new cadre.
He positioned the party to be the main opposition party dislodging the Congress from the second slot. The panchayat polls in 2017 saw the BJP do phenomenally well.
For a party which never ever had any base in Odisha and could win only one LS seat and 10 assembly seats even during the Modi wave polls of 2014, it was Pradhan who led the party campaign in the panchayat polls. He had stamped his authority. But now , Pradhan finds a formidable group challenging his authority in the party and ‘negotiating’ with heavyweight leaders of other parties to induct them.
Perhaps by sheer coincidence, this group has found voice, since the recruitment of former MP Baijayant Panda a few weeks ago. The discernible feature is that several political leaders are in being contacted and given assurances by this ‘group’ bypassing Dharmendra Pradhan.
It is known fact that party general secretary in charge of Odisha Arun Singh, Baijayant Panda , K V Singh Deo have been in touch with disgruntled leaders and negotiating with them on their own.
A central leader of the party is said to have aligned with the ‘group’ and during talks they are said to be dismissive of Pradhan. It was he who had stopped prominent leaders from joining the BJP in 2015 when Amit Shah visited the state, the first time. A list had been drawn and people were sounded but Pradhan had stalled it least his dominance gets eroded, said a detractor of the Union Petroleum Minister.
Now the central leadership has realised to a certain extent and allowed inductions/negotiations with or without Dharmendra Pradhan’s knowledge. Amid all the fact is that Dharmendra Pradhan has had the lion’s share in ticket distribution. It is in the ticket allocation in many LS seats that has left political observers aghast.
The perception is that it is suicidal in many instances like Suresh Pujari for Bargarh instead of Subash Chouhan, Prakash Mishra ( Cuttack), Balabhadra Majhi (Nawarangpur), Basant Panda (Kalahandi) , Nitish Gangadev ( Sambalpur). Of the 17 LS candidates declared by the BJP there are at least eight who by all accounts do not stand a chance, said the observers. Only a ‘Modi Tsunami’ can help these eight to win.