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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

BJP goes BJD way in recruiting former bureaucrats to fight 2019 polls in Odisha

BJP is seeking to build its own political base of retired civil servants and former police officers in the state to match the BJD’s in Odisha.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2018 15:20 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
BJP is seeking to build its own political base of retired civil servants and former police officers in the state to match the BJD’s in Odisha.
BJP is seeking to build its own political base of retired civil servants and former police officers in the state to match the BJD’s in Odisha. (AFP FILE PHOTO)
         

Buoyed by some opinion polls that it may give Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) a run for its money in 2019 assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be going all out to challenge Naveen Patnaik’s political hegemony in the eastern state.

Although it has no local leader who can match the charisma and popularity of the chief minister in Odisha, the BJP is seeking to build its own political base of retired civil servants and former police officers in the state to match the BJD’s.

One candidate it has zeroed in on is former joint secretary in the rural development ministry — Aparajita Sarangi, who was relieved from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) a few days ago following her request for voluntary retirement.

BJP leaders said Sarangi would join the party at a function on November 27 and would be an important part of the party’s Mission East programme.

“She will be an asset to the party due to her image of being an honest and efficient officer,” said Prithviraj Harichandan, general secretary of the BJP in Odisha.

Sarangi said she would announce her electoral debut soon. “First let me get inducted into the party,” she said.

Sarangi may not be the only all-India service officer the BJP fields in the elections. BJP functionaries said on condition of anonymity that former Odisha director general of police and ex-Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) director general Prakash Mishra is likely to be fielded from either the Puri or Cuttack Lok Sabha constituency. Mishra told Hindustan Times that he was not aware of any such development.

Mishra was denied the post of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director in 2016 because of a vigilance case he had been slapped with. The case was dismissed by both the Orissa high court and later the Supreme Court, with stinging rebuke to the state government.

Political analyst and former political science professor at Sambalpur University, Satya Prakash Dash said Sarangi and Mishra’s joining BJP was a good sign for the party.

“Compared to the existing BJP leaders, Mishra and Sarangi are well-known in Odisha for their probity. Besides, as bureaucrats they have better connect with people than many of the present-day politicians,” said Dash.

BJP’s national secretary Suresh Pujari said one can’t categorically say whether bureaucrats joining politics would add value to the party. “It would differ from person to person. But Sarangi and Mishra are good officers known for their competence,” he said.

The BJD has had a headstart in inducting former bureaucrats and police officers into its fold. In April this year, former Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik joined the BJD followed by Amar Patnaik, a former accountant general of Odisha and Kerala.

Soon after he joined BJD, Arup Patnaik, a 1979 batch IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, was put in charge of the Biju Yuva Vahini, a volunteer programme under which the state government plans to spend Rs 450 crore by appointing over 8,000 grassroots level youth workers.

Patnaik is tipped to be the BJD candidate from the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency. The former police officer has no advantage over regular politicians. “One has to be patient in politics unlike bureaucracy where one’s commands are obeyed instantly,” he said.

Amar Patnaik took voluntary retirement early this year to join the BJD in August. Entrusted with the responsibility of the BJD’s social media and information technology cell, Patnaik is likely to contest the Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat, party functionaries said on condition of anonymity.

There is also intense speculation of public works secretary Nalinikanta Pradhan joining the BJD before the polls to contest Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat.

BJD Rajya Sabha MP Prasanna Acharya said bureaucrats joining politics was a good thing, but they should not think of it as some sort of a retirement benefit.

“Sensible and intelligent people should join politics. Instead of criticising from a distance, it is better to plunge into politics and serve the people,” said Acharya.

Congress leaders said they would stay out of the race to induct former bureaucrats into the party fold. “There seems to be a competition between the two parties to induct bureaucrats. Congress is a party for the common man,” said Congress leader Tara Prasad Bahinipati.

First Published: Nov 24, 2018 13:49 IST