The headquarters of Biju Janata Dal here is 500 metres from Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s house. But for party leaders and workers, it almost does not exist.
Since the announcement of polls a fortnight ago, all roads have led to the sprawling landmark house that former Odisha CM Biju Patnaik had built and named after his youngest son Naveen. The house has clocked an average 6,000 visitors daily, most of them MPs, MLAs, deserters from other parties, first time ticket-seekers and the hangers-on.
The number excludes commoners seeking the chief minister’s help and scores of media persons stationed there for 11-12 hours a day to capture the action.
The ‘mad rush’ has put pressure on the security at Naveen Niwas, the power centre through Naveen Patnaik’s reign for 14 years. This has made the Special Security Battalion increase the number of personnel from the normal 140 (for Z Plus security) to 200.
BJD’s is not the only deserted party headquarters. The offices of Congress and BJP also wear a forlorn look, understandable because their poll contestants are being chosen in New Delhi.
Odisha panchayat raj minister and BJD vice-president Kalpataru Das attributed the large crowd at Naveen Niwas to the love and trust people have for Patnaik. “Party workers feel at home here,” he said.
That, others pointed out, depends on whose destiny is being made or marred in Naveen Nivas.
Some of the visitors came specifically to campaign against incumbent legislators. “We want Patnaik not to give ticket to the sitting MLA who joined BJD from NCP,” said Rajesh Tripathy, a party worker from Badachana assembly constituency.
Others apparently chose the wrong time to grab the attention of the chief minister to their problems. “I came with an application for BPL card, but the security men turned me away,” said R Arathi, an old woman from Ganjam, Patnaik’s home turf.
Patnaik’s neighbours, however, are not amused. “I get stranded for half an hour every day because of the traffic snarl caused by the vehicles parked in front of Naveen Niwas,” Suresh Mishra, employee in a private firm, said.