Gearing Up For Another By-poll battle With Confidence

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The ruling BJD has already won two important bye-elections held towards the end of last year. Now it is gearing up for the third bye-election in the prestigious Pipili constituency which was earlier represented by veteran Pradeep Maharathy. While Maharathy’s political legacy will be a factor in this by-poll the most important factor expected to tilt the balance in favour of the ruling party will be chief minister’s growing popularity.

Major parties have begun preparations for yet another by-poll battle. This will be a fresh test of their popularity. The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) will be relying chiefly on chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s image and charisma to retain the prestigious Pipili assembly seat where a by-poll has become due following the death of veteran Pradeep Maharathy. While Maharathy’s much touted political legacy remains at best controversial there is little doubt about the popularity of Patnaik who has been reigning supreme in the state for the last 20 years.

There is intense speculation over ruling Biju Janata Dal’s likely candidate as both wife and son of Maharathy appear willing to contest and some other BJD leaders might also be willing to throw their hats into the ring. There is also a lot of conjecture about the probable candidates of the two major opposition parties—BJP and Congress. But despite such speculation there is hardly any doubt about the outcome of the contest in this politically volatile constituency. Even though a formal announcement from the Election Commission is awaited parties have already begun their preparations for the upcoming battle with BJD, as usual, far ahead of its rivals.  The party has already appointed a former minister as its observer for the Pipili by-poll.

BJD’s two main rivals may be reluctant to admit defeat before the actual battle for the fear of losing face but in their heart of hearts they know fully well that ruling party’s victory in Pipili is a foregone conclusion. The seat has been a BJD bastion for a long time with Maharathy himself emerging victorious from there several times. But more than anything else the popular appeal of chief minister, Naveen Patnaik is likely to tilt the balance in favour of the ruling party.

The magic of Patnaik has worked for the BJD with such incredible consistency that he has come to be seen as the party’s infallible poll mascot. His electoral track record is formidable. Apart from leading his party to five back to back victories in the state he has also ensured its success in a string of bye-elections. Towards the end of last year his party registered two thumping wins in Balasore Sadar and Tirtol where bye-elections were held following the death of sitting MLAs. While the party snatched the Balasore Sadar seat from the BJP it retained Tirtol by a huge margin.

The prime factors behind Patnaik’s infallible charisma are his sincerity and honesty. While his personal image has been a great asset to his party the performance of his government continues to enhance his popularity. He is widely seen as a leader completely dedicated to the welfare of his people. His programmes and policies have received popular approval repeatedly. In his fifth coming as the chief minister of the state his focus has been as much on transparency and eliminating corruption as on bringing governance closer to people. While his 5T “mantra” of governance has been widely appreciated, programmes like Mo Sarkar have been hailed as “ revolutionary” initiatives in the field of administration. With such a track record the series of electoral victories registered by his party hardly come as a surprise.

Patnaik has been taking one popular step after another. His recent appeal to elected  representatives from the state to adopt schools under the “ Mo School” programme, a unique initiative, reflects his vision for strengthening the education system in the state with focus on government schools which have been forced to play second fiddle to private schools primarily because of lack resources. The chief minister remains keen to create a level playing field for students drawn from different social strata.

Patnaik had launched the Mo School campaign, the only one of its kind in the country, in response to the philanthropic interest from the alumni of Odisha schools residing outside the state and even abroad. This programme aims to create a platform for people to connect, collaborate and contribute to revamping government and government-aided schools.

The chief minister obviously believes that a robust and vibrant school education system holds the key to the brighter future of the state which needs to groom its children to be successful citizens to contribute meaningfully to the development of Odisha and the country as a whole.

A tribute to the visionary thinking of Patnaik, Mo School is a unique concept that has created a citizen-government partnership for strengthening the education system. The programme that aims to foster and facilitate volunteerism provides a platform to  individuals as well as associations of different kinds to contribute to the development of the school ecosystem in in the state.

The most important feature of the programme is that it leverages the experience, success and influence of the alumni and their  world- wide network to boost school education in the state. Thus, it creates an enabling environment to harness the vast human resource and intellectual capital of the state.

The other important objective of the programme is to groom school children to become dreamers, doers, makers, explorers, and entrepreneurs. The focus is rightly on government and government aided schools which enroll the maximum number of students, a sizeable chunk of them coming from less privileged backgrounds. Of the total of 72,21,218 school going children in the state 53,68,135 study in government schools and another 5,75,313 in government-aided schools.

While the chief minister has also launched some other important initiatives like the establishment of Adarsh Vidyalayas to boost the education system his prime concern, as always, has been providing adequate opportunities to students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds like the ones studying in government-run schools. Recently he had announced reservation of seats for them in medical and engineering colleges.

This was followed by waiver of fees for Matriculation examination to be conducted by the Board of Secondary Education this year. The decision, which is set to cost the government Rs.27 crore, will benefit more than six lakh students studying in government schools. Aware of the financial distress caused to the people by the corona pandemic the chief minister made this gesture to ensure that no student is deprived of the  opportunity to appear for this crucial examination of his career due to monetary problems.

The student community of the state, especially the students of government-run schools, will forever remain beholden to the chief minister for such initiatives. Patnaik’s appeal to elected representatives to adopt schools in the state is likely to generate a good response. With such initiatives Patnaik’s popularity keeps growing and he remains politically invincible.

 

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