The chubby-cheeked Talcher-born leader Dharmendra Pradhan, currently a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, is slowly but certainly carving out a constituency for himself in Odisha, which is the focus of his political ambitions. Pradhan is invariably in media focus when it comes to taking a stand on Odisha related issues.
Union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan is among the few leaders of BJP who have the ear of both Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and party president, Amit Shah. His rise within the party has been phenomenal.
In Odisha he is fast emerging as the BJP’s face in the state. Call it conscious image building or a tactical line that the party seems to be following with an eye to 2019 Assembly elections, his posters and banners are ubiquitous in the state.
He smiles down at you from giant hoardings on the National Highway No. 5 passing through Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. The hoarding, with his smiling face, emblazoned on them appear at regular intervals as you drive down any important road or highway in the state. In short he is everywhere. Such is his appeal among youngsters that a few years ago his enthusiastic supporters had lined up an entire Bhubaneswar lane with his posters as he took that route to inaugurate Oil and Natural Gas Commission’s first-ever office in the city.
The chubby-cheeked Talcher-born leader is invariably in media focus when it comes to taking a stand on Odisha related issues. Whether it is sparring with rivals in the BJD on lack of development in the state or berating his political opponents in other parties Pradhan is always in the lead. Urbane and articulate, he makes his point with an ease that has become the envy of his own party colleagues in the state.
Currently a Rajya Sabha member Pradhan is slowly but certainly carving out a constituency for himself in his home state, which is the focus of his political ambitions. The leader, who made his electoral debut in 2000 by winning the Palhara Assembly seat and then won the Deogarh Lok Sabha seat in 2004, is considered close to BJP national president Amit Shah, for whom he is the key to the party’s strategy for bringing the BJP back to power in Odisha in 2019.
Party leaders admit to his dynamism and rarely ever grudge the importance being accorded to him. “He is one of the frontline leaders of the party and has been doing his job wonderfully even as a Union minister,” said state a senior state BJP leader. He, however, disagreed that there was any conscious image-building exercise behind Pradhan’s current public persona or that he was being groomed as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for 2019 elections. That, according to him, was a natural conclusion to draw given Pradhan’s popularity. One should remember that even Pradhan’s ministerial colleague, Jual Oram has accepted his leadership in Odisha.
Another senior BJP leader, who has been watching Pradhan from close quarters, said, “There is no denying his leadership qualities and his willingness to lead the party from the front. He neither shirks away from challenges nor responsibilities. No wonder he is trusted by the leadership.” As things stand today Pradhan, the blue eyed boy of BJP leadership, cannot put a foot wrong.