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Who Will Lead BJD After Naveen Patnaik?

By Fnf correspondent | PUBLISHED: 25, May 2024, 22:11 pm IST | UPDATED: 25, May 2024, 22:11 pm IST

Who Will Lead BJD After Naveen Patnaik? New Delhi: The Biju Janata Dal's reliance on 77-year-old Naveen Patnaik in Odisha presents a significant opening for the BJP. Amidst the fervor of the 2024 Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly elections, BJP leaders have stirred a fresh political discourse, questioning Patnaik's 24-year tenure, his age, health, activism, and potential successors.

In Odisha, voting is underway for both the 147 assembly seats and 21 Lok Sabha seats simultaneously. Naveen Patnaik's personal charisma stands as a major asset for BJD amidst the extensive elections spanning four phases between May 13 and June 1. His bid for a historic sixth term as Chief Minister looms large. However, the looming question remains: who will succeed Patnaik? By introducing this uncertainty, the BJP has injected a new dynamic into Odisha's political landscape.

In response to such uncertainties, citizens in markets like Kadligarh in Sambalpur district express support for Naveen Babu but are uncertain about his successor. When asked about his longtime associate VK Pandian, concerns arise due to his non-Oriya background. These responses underscore Odisha's current political trajectory and future challenges. Both the ruling BJD, under Naveen Patnaik's 24-year stewardship, and the opposition BJP must confront this reality.

Meanwhile, the BJP, having entered the campaign arena late after failed alliance talks with BJD, struggles to identify a figure in Odisha who can credibly challenge Naveen Patnaik's dominance. Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's three visits to the state since the election announcement, the party has yet to showcase a clear leader or leadership group in Odisha

Similar to the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, Naveen Patnaik's administration in Odisha has maintained a strong hold on the women's vote bank through empowerment and welfare initiatives. Significant budget allocations have been directed towards healthcare, education, self-reliance, and justice. At the BJD's silver jubilee celebrations in December 2022, Patnaik emphasized that the party's longevity hinges on prioritizing women's empowerment.

During the 16th Lok Sabha in 2014, BJD MPs rallied support from other political factions for the Women's Reservation Bill. The party has continued this momentum by fielding 33 percent women candidates in both the 2019 and 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Patnaik's personal appeal remains a potent political asset, bolstered by his anti-corruption stance.

In response to BJP's challenges, Naveen Patnaik has championed Odia aspirations and identity. Despite his accidental entry into politics, Patnaik, educated at Doon School and St. Stephen's College, Delhi, acknowledges Odisha's unique linguistic heritage as the first linguistically defined state. Unlike many regional leaders, Patnaik has refrained from expanding his party beyond state borders.
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