From the Editor’s Desk: Not long ago, all fuel stations in Odisha were boasting large-size hoardings with Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s photos just along with PM Narendra Modi. Dharmendra figured in all schemes, new launches and various other petroleum Ads. The BJD did not take the issue very seriously. But, gradually, the message became loud and clear. Yes, Dharmendra Pradhan emerged as the undisputed leader of Odisha BJP and unofficial CM candidate for 2019. So, it was obvious for the ruling party and pro-Naveen group to become concerned and impatient.
Over the last 12 months or so, Dharmendra Pradhan has been very much active and regularly visiting Odisha every alternate week. He is trying hard to build his brand and image in the state through government Ads, social media promotion and various other means. The BJD initially considered him as a ‘persona non-grata’ in the state, who would never pose threat to Naveen Patnaik’s undisputed leadership. But, the party was terribly wrong. The party and its leaders became concerned when Dharmendra installed his personal choice Basant Panda as the Odisha Unit President, overriding the claims of seasoned politician Bijoy Mohapatra and popular leader Pratap Sarangi.
Dharmendra Pradhan’s IOCL Ad campaign ahead of PM Modi’s Odisha visit on February 6-7, took the BJD by surprise. After the Supreme Court order in May 2015, Dharmendra Pradhan’s photos were taken off from the posters and hoardings at fuel stations. But, they made an aggressive comeback with Pradhan getting prominence on IOCL Ads and special vehicles for all 30 districts.
Ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), its Ministers and Chief Minister himself always defied the law get themselves features on all government Ads, starting from ‘Niramaya’ medicine scheme to Food Security Mission. They even hijacked central schemes and projected them as their own. They did the same during the UPA regime too, but Congress failed to nail them. But, this time, Modi Government at the centre and Dharmendra Pradhan in the state are in no mood to relent.
Despite the vigil, the BJD had their way in many cases. But, all of a sudden, they recalled the law and rule book, as they got scared of Dharmendra Pradhan’s aggressive campaign tactics. Be it the arrest of Dhalasamanta Brothers, who were patronised by the ruling party leaders for years or going after IOCL Ads, the party has gone aggressive to counter Mr. Pradhan, who is giving anxious and sleepless moments to CM Naveen Patnaik and his group.
It would be interesting to see how things are unfolded in the coming months, as both BJP and Pradhan have decided to take on the BJD and build their base in the state.