From The Editor’s Desk (Jan 15, 2016): Not long ago, Lulu Mohapatra was almost written off while other Congress leaders such as Jayadev Jena, Bhakta Charan Das, Srikant Jena, Pradeep Majhi took the centrestage in Odisha Congress. But, the debacle in 2014 Assembly polls as well as Lok Sabha polls, changed the equation forever. Both Jayadev and Srikant were sidelined and relatively younger leaders emerged as the future of Odisha Congress.
The new era began with Prasad Harichandan’s elevation as the PCC President although many considered Lulu Mohapatra as a front runner. As Prasad assumed charge, people started to believe that Lulu may not get a bigger role to play in the party. But, with the ‘Egg Attack’ theory, he bounced back with a bang. If anything is being discussed in Odisha today, that is ‘Egg’. And, if any leader is being feared by the ruling party, that is none other than Lulu Mohapatra.
Lulu always enjoyed the support of Youth and Student Congress cadres. He has been a grassroot leader, who rose to the top from student politics. The ‘blue-eyed’ boy of late Janaki Ballabh Patnaik, Lulu Mohapatra does not believe in moderate politics. He is a man of aggression. And, he believes that the ruling party (BJD), its leader Naveen Patnaik and other Ministers can be challenged only by an aggressive strategy.
Lulu’s first target was the Chief Minister himself last year while he was on his way to attend a function at Utkal University. Although the CM’s security was tightened following that episode, the government shrugged it off as an one-off incident and never ever imagined that it would become a trend and its Ministers would come under attack someday. The much hyped ration card scam, gave further ammunition to Lulu’s ‘Egg Brigade’.
Minister Sanjay Das Burma was the first to suffer the egg attack, followed by two other young, yet powerful Ministers – Atannu Sabyasachi Nayak and Arun Sahoo. Egg, which is termed as the ‘invention of the year’, thanks to Lulu Mohapatra, has scared the BJD leaders and Ministers. They are yet to find a way to counter it. But, the Ministers are now moving around with massive security cover and escorted by supporters. Lulu has openly dared the BJD even though Odisha Congress leaders have not come out in his support openly. Some Congress leaders have even opposed it. But, Lulu got support from an unexpected quarter when former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh endorsed the ‘Egg Attack’ strategy.
‘Egg Attack’s is not the only movement started by Lulu Mohapatra. He has become very much active and travelling to various parts of the state to mobilise support in his favour. The youth and student Congress cadres are firmly behind him. Lulu says he wants to revive the party at the grassroot level and strengthen it further so that it poses a big challenge to Naveen Patnaik’s undisputed leadership in the state. Many senior leaders are holding secret meetings with him although they are not opening endorsing his views and action.
The message is loud and clear – Lulu Mohapatra is back in Odisha Politics. He will be there as a force to reckon with. Nobody can write him off – neither Naveen Patnaik nor Prasad Harichandan. But, the question remains whether he would help unite the party or trigger a split. The latter would come as a blessing in disguise for the BJD. Only time will say…