Carry it forward: On the BJP government in Odisha

The BJP government should continue development schemes in Odisha

Updated - June 14, 2024 08:18 am IST

Published - June 14, 2024 12:20 am IST

Odisha’s newly sworn-in Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi, the first politician from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to occupy the post in the State, will also be making a new record while thwarting a long-standing one. His predecessor, Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal, was the Chief Minister for 24 years and 99 days – the second longest tenure for any one in India, after Pawan Kumar Chamling who served 66 days longer in Sikkim. Mr. Majhi is from the Santali tribe and his ascension shows the assiduousness with which the BJP has sought to win the support of the tribal communities in central and east India — also reflected in its endorsement of President Droupadi Murmu when she stood as a candidate. Mr. Majhi has rich experience as a legislator and a political organiser, having begun his political journey as an administrator. He was a village sarpanch in the late 1990s. His ascension marks a breakthrough for the BJP, which successfully projected the image of the BJD being rudderless without Mr. Patnaik as well as his dependence on the bureaucracy having steadily eroded the BJD of its second-rung of leadership. As the Achilles heel of the BJD too, this bureaucratic over-dependence was used to not only provide governance and implement policies endorsed by Mr. Patnaik, but also in political outreach. The BJP has steadfastly grown as the alternative to the BJD with the decline of the Congress.

Mr. Majhi’s swearing-in ceremony also marked a return to a degree of political bonhomie with the BJD after a bitter and personal campaign targeting Mr. Patnaik’s lieutenant, V.K. Pandian, for his Tamil roots. The optics were encouraging and the BJP should focus on bringing continuity to some of the BJD’s initiatives in the State that have allowed for faster GDP growth, better delivery of services and welfare measures in the rural areas, and better diversification of an economy that is dependent on agriculture. Yet, for all its successes in reducing poverty and diversifying its economy, Odisha still remains among the poorest States in the country, with an estimated 11.07% of its population below the Multidimensional Poverty Index in 2023, according to NITI-Aayog and only six major States having higher numbers. Mr. Majhi and his colleagues have their task cut out. Odisha rewarded Mr. Patnaik with a long tenure not just for governance but also for bringing peace to a State that has seen communal riots in its tribal regions at a time when his party was in alliance with the BJP. The BJP should not interpret this mandate as one that endorses its ideology of Hindutva and return to those days of communal disharmony. Instead, it must focus on continuing the developmental work in Odisha.

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