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Challenges before new Odisha CM: Will BJP government perform or perish?

By Sudhansu R Das 
BJP has emerged from the ashes in Odisha like the mythical bird, Phoenix. The party was almost ruined due to its merger with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and subsequent ouster from its alliance with BJD.. The party was leaderless due to the exit of its senior leaders, dilution of ideology, greed for power, and entry of many turncoat politicians from other parties. It had eroded people’s trust in the BJP and let BJD rule Odisha for two and half decades amid the lacklustre performance of the Congress party. 
No grassroots-level research was needed to know why the BJP’s base was eroding. Till the last moment, the central leadership was favoring the BJP-BJD alliance. But the local leadership opposed it tooth and nail; a possible BJP-BJD alliance was delayed, and the alliance did not happen. There was open revolt from the local BJP leaders who said they would prefer to resign from the BJP rather than campaign for a BJP-BJD alliance.  
The BJP’s state president, Manmohan Samal, worked hard to convince the BJP central leadership about the risk of allying with BJD. Unemployment, growing idle energy, mining scams, growing crimes, unprecedented summer heat, the disappearance of Odia language and land on the border districts, deforestation and distortion of water bodies etc. soiled BJD’s image.  
The Pandian factor let the BJD fort collapse on the BJD itself. VK Pandian, bureaucrat-turned-politician, who came from Tamil Nadu,  roamed around the state distributing projects, food and freebies among people; he was projected as the would-be Chief Minister of Odisha.  He was like the shadow of the Chief Minister, Naveen Pattanaik.  His voice was heard everywhere and his face was shown in every poster; he made Chief Minister, Naveen Pattanaik, like a baby.  The people of Odisha did not like it. 
Naveen is the son of Odisha’s Bira Putra (brave son), the daredevil pilot, the freedom fighter, and former CM, Biju Pattnaik, who had built Odisha from scratch. People did not like somebody controlling Naveen from behind.  The anger and frustration among the Odia people turned into a volcano as the BJP state leadership fuelled it by propagating that the BJD was destroying the self-respect of the Odia people.   It yielded results. 
Had Naveen Pattanaik replaced Pandian with an able Odia leader he would have easily won the 2024 elections. BJP won with an absolute majority. The point is whether the new Chief Minister, Mohan Charan Majhi, can organize the BJP into a strong party that can perform to win people's trust.
A towering personality can manage the powerful Khetriya, Karana and the Khandayat castes of Odisha. The Karanas  were the nobles who ruled Odisha for generations. due to their long experience in administration. 
There is no caste politics in Odisha.  Mohan Majhi has the advantage of Jagannath culture which binds people together; caste does not take root due to Lord Jagannath who belonged to the tribal community and is worshipped by all.   
The tasks before the new Chief Minister are challenging. He has to perform or perish.  Naveen Pattanaik has brought visible change to Odisha in the fields of infrastructure, education, tourism and IT sector.  If Majhi succeeds in pursuing Odisha-specific development and convince people what is meaningful and sustainable development, he can be a successful Chief Minister.
First, the BJP government should make Odisha livable for the native people. The state should revive forest, lakes and water bodies so that people would get a respite from long and cruel summer which lasts more than seven months. Native trees should be protected and new trees should be planted with people’s participation on both sides of the roads, in villages and cities.  The census of all water bodies should be completed within six months and urgent measures should be taken to preserve the water bodies. Since BJP has formed government in Chhattisgarh, this is an opportune moment for the Odisha government to negotiate with Chhattisgarh and find out a permanent solution for the river Mahanadi which is the lifeline of Odisha; over damming of Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh has made the river dry in Odishsa. 
The state of Odisha cannot afford to lose its rivers due to the errand development plan of its neighbouring states. Rivers are not the property of one state only.  If all the water bodies are revived the state is bound to increase food production more than tenfold, generate employment and stop the painful migration of people to distant Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab for menial jobs. 
Today more than 50% people in the world do not get adequate food due to erosion of crop diversity and the conversion of agricultural land into concrete jungles. Odisha can take advantage of the world’s hunger and step of crop production.   Before that it should ensure that each rupee spent for village development is utilised.
There is no caste politics in Odisha.  Mohan Majhi has the advantage of Jagannath culture which binds people together
No urban centre will survive without a healthy rural sector with people who are ready to do physical work to earn their livelihood.  Mohan Majhi has to dismantle the idle energy and liquor addiction among youth in rural areas with the help of the Sangha Parivar volunteers.

Urban development

The urban areas of the state provide quality education, employment, health care facility and career opportunities to people. But over population in urban centres bring disaster to the cities and towns. 
Majhi should create employment in rural area on war footing so that villagers will not migrate to cities. The government should not encourage people to occupy government land in cities; this has been going on in the state for decades in connivance with builders and some unscrupulous politicians. 
Today the historic Cuttack city is a pale shadow of its former self. The Sahis of Cuttack city contributed immensely to the history, culture and the handicraft traditions of the State. Today open drains, mosquitoes, cowsheds on government land, garbage dump, lack of footpath, road encroachment, drinking water scarcity and food adulteration has adversely affected the cultural capital of Odisha. The city needs cycle tracks, battery operated auto rickshas, community playgrounds, library, road discipline and healthy environment.  
The micro garbage processing plants which have been installed near ancient temples or in densely populated Sahis of Cuttack should be shifted to the suburban locality as those stinking plants create too much inconvenience for the residents. The new government should show zero tolerance to contractors and builders who build bad roads in cities; it should punish officials who have wasted money on unnecessary infra projects without thorough technical and environmental appraisal.  
The main reasons of water logging on roads and drains in cities should be detected for permanent solution.  Building mega infrastructures should not be the aim of any government. The main objective is to examine whether the projects could achieve inclusive growth or it is just made to  benefit the contractors and to create an illusion of development.
Every rupee spent in villages matters.  The urban centres largely depend on the economy of rural areas. 
There are multiple economic activities in the villages of Odisha which can earn Rs 20,000 to Rs 1,00,000 per month for each family.  Variety of rice, vegetables, cashews, palm, coconut, mango, mushroom, medicinal plants, variety of banana, fish, edible herbs and shrubs etc can weave a sustainable economic model. High end industrial products can add revenue.  
The forests of Odisha are abound with wood, bamboo, honey and grass for weaving, canes and many other minor forest products which can make the tribal happy and wealthy in a transparent supply chain. The tribal of Odisha have extraordinary skills to add high value to handcrafted objects which can fetch them good income. 
What they need is good, honest and efficient governance which can give the tribal what they always deserve. Being a tribal leader, Majhi knows the tribal potential and the tribal energy to win Olympic medals; he has to protect the tribal skills and the creative energy to build Odisha. Odisha should graduate from exclusive growth to inclusive growth phase.  
The state can weave its water resources, forest, handicrafts, industries, fishery, agriculture, horticulture, pilgrim sector and tourism sector with the thread of good governance. Odisha has immense potential to build a sustainable development model for the entire country.

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