Shape of Things to Come

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The recent incident involving the leader of the opposition and a lady police officer has left a bad taste in the mouth. This is indicative of the trajectory that the rivalry between BJP and BJD is going to take in the run up to the next general elections. However, BJD, which continues to ride high on the popularity of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, remains confident about doing well in 2024.

Politics once again took the centerstage as a lady police officer in Sambalpur accused the local BJP MLA and leader of opposition in the state assembly of threatening her and obstructing her from carrying out her duty. The incident, which took place during a protest by the BJP over the deteriorating law and order situation in the state, has triggered a war of words between the BJP and the ruling Biju Janata Dal. While Mishra, who was subsequently booked under various sections of the IPC, has denied the charges and called them politically motivated BJD leaders have called him a repeat offender.

Mishra is no stranger to controversies but what happened in Sambalpur was totally unexpected. This is also indicative of the kind of politics the state is going to witness ahead of the next general elections. It may turn out to be a no-holds-barred battle between the two main parties.

The BJD leaders, however, see this as a sign of growing frustration in the BJP which has not been able to taste power in the state since the breakdown of its alliance with the Naveen Patnaik-led party in 2009. Ever Since it has been BJD all the way. The image of chief minister Naveen Patnaik has been the dominating factor in the rise of the BJD which has been breaking one record after another.

As it is Patnaik has been consistently trying to improve the quality of governance by seeking feedback from the people. This has been his hallmark since the launch of Mo Sarkar, a unique transformational initiative as part of his 5T governance formula over three years ago. Reviewing the progress of Mo Sarkar recently Patnaik asked district collectors to collect more feedback on implementation of different government programmes and schemes. He also advised different departments to strengthen their database.

The Mo Sarkar, which was launched by the chief minister on October 2, 2019, has been a tremendous success. Under this initiative, people visiting different government offices are asked about the behaviour of officials and whether steps are being taken to resolve their problems.  He has been reviewing the implementation of the programme from time to time.

Sources said that 263 services of 31 departments have been included in ‘Mo Sarkar’ and so far, 3.77 crore feedbacks have been received under the initiative. There has been a marked improvement in the functioning of various departments ever since the launch of the programme, which is being directly monitored by chief minister and his secretary VK Pandian who is also the first 5T secretary of the state.

This unique initiative, which acts as a bridge between people and the government and makes government officials more accountable, was launched on the Gandhi Jayanti day in 2019. While Mahatma Gandhi’s Swaraj (self-governance) was about people learning to rule themselves through self-discipline Patnaik’s initiative is about making the government truly accountable to people.

To begin with the focal areas for Mo Sarkar were police stations and government hospitals, the aim being to assess the kind of service they are providing to the people. The chief minister himself spoke to the people visiting police stations over phone to know about their experience. The impact was immediate and massive with a large number of people admitting that behavior of the men in khaki towards them had improved in a big way and that police stations appeared to be a friendlier place.

Back them the Opposition had slammed the initiative as a political stunt aimed at garnering votes. Leaders of BJP and Congress argued that while services in hospitals cannot really improve without putting quality infrastructure in place policemen would initially make a show of being nice to people for the fear of incurring chief minister’s wrath but their basic anti-people nature was unlikely to change.

However, they were proved wrong very soon as a large number of people experienced a positive change in the behavior of men in khaki. Not only were they properly received at the police stations and their complaints registered without any fuss, even the quality of investigation improved. This did not happen just because the chief minister himself held the Home portfolio, this happened primarily because policemen were made to realize the need for improving their image.

Things also started looking up on the health front with doctors in government hospitals paying due attention to patients and the government making every possible effort to improve the infrastructure in the hospitals. The 5T secretary himself undertook field tours to see the condition of hospitals and took steps to upgrade infrastructure wherever required. Thanks to this initiative government hospitals in Odisha were better prepared than most such hospitals in other parts of the country to dealt with the COVID-19 epidemic when its first wave hit the country. Odisha had the best health infrastructure in place including special COVID hospitals to tackle the pandemic.

Ever since coming to power in 2000 Patnaik has been contesting all elections on the performance plank. The implementation of Mo Sarkar has made this plank stronger as the performance of almost every department has improved with bureaucrats becoming more accountable for their actions.  The importance of Mo Sarkar can be gauged from the fact that it is being directly monitored by chief minister’s secretary and state’s first 5T secretary VK Pandian. It has helped improve the quality of administration by making the government more pro-people.

Now almost all the schemes and welfare programmes of the government are being monitored under this initiative which has helped improve the delivery system. Be it the distribution of cheap rice to the below poverty line (BPL) people or the scheme under which the urban poor are being served meals for just Rs. 5 every scheme now bears the stamp of Mo Sarkar with rigorous monitoring leaving no scope for complacency.

No wonder the initiative has given a big boost to the government’s poverty alleviation programmes and traditionally backward districts of the state have benefitted the most from it. Corruption has been minimized and efficiency levels have gone up significantly. All major government programmes including Mission Shakti under which women are being provided the opportunity to earn by becoming members of self-help groups (SHGs) bear the stamp of Mo Sarkar. Its impact is visible everywhere.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has reaped the political benefits of improvement in governance due to the implementation of Mo Sarkar. The party has won almost every election including bye-elections since the general elections of 2019. The only exception was the Dhamnagar assembly by-poll which the party lost primarily because of the entry of a rebel in the fray. The party has not only been winning bye-elections convincingly but has also won panchayat and municipal elections with relative ease.

Given all this the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD finds itself in a dominating position and nicely poised to win the next general elections. However, BJP, its main challenger, will use every trick in its bag to frustrate the BJD.

 

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