When BJD masters decided to pit late Pradeep Maharathys’s son Rudra Pratap to fight the Pipili by-election mainly against a rising BJP man, people were rather shocked. This Maharathy junior has simply nothing substantial to his credit as a public figure that can woo voters. Secondly, there are many with likeable credentials within the party fold to have been chosen as the BJD fighter. Dynastic selection, loathed across the democratic world without exception, has not gone well with many.
The BJD just did not have any problem in choosing a popular guy other than a Maharathy particularly when it is an established fact that even an ordinary ‘statue of wax’ can win elections if given a BJD ticket as the supremo Naveen Patnaik is an incredibly trusted, adored mass leader. Naveen has been going places ever since he ventured into politics way back in 1997. People consider any act of Naveen as divine.
Long-time MLA Pradeep Maharathy was in a way popular with his share of uncertainties and hiccups mainly because of his loudmouth and loose talk. But he had mastered the subtle techniques of wooing and arm-twisting the gullible electors to support him by voting blindly. He was a good organiser with great skills in theatrics. So, he developed himself as some kind of a strong guy whom people couldn’t refuse in the face. He enjoyed enormously being called a ‘Bahubali’ though he truly was never one.
He had succeeded in creating a ‘muscleman hallow’ which facilitated his lieutenants to force people to listen and oblige. Besides, he was lucky to sail through in the Naveen era only because any party oldie or veteran with the ‘Naveen stamp’ finds it difficult to lose even today.
Only freshers from distant locations with no political experience or exposure, without adequate time for campaigning may have lost marginally if the contenders were overwhelmingly big. All this while, Pradeep easily gathered votes under the extremely safe ‘Naveen umbrella’ and successfully schemed to have himself portrayed as a highly popular politician, which was never ever true. He had never learnt the rock-bottom basics of statesmanship. All the same, as he had a great sense of humour, he made MLAs enjoy hearty laughs in the cool comfort of the Assembly hall with funny, mostly meaningless, talk and cheap jokes, which even enemies and adversaries enjoyed as they felt relaxed. He was kind of a miniscule version of the badly-defamed Lalu Yadav.
Pradeep was, of course, a blind follower of the legendary Biju Patnaik, who admired anyone with courage displayed while talking back or opposing him publicly. But then, he lost once to his Congress rival despite the Naveen wave. So, his own charisma was only false and make-believe.
Pradeep lived a life of colourful adventures. He set up a theatre outfit called ‘Jatra Party’, through which he fixed his adversaries and detractors skilfully. They say now that he was parochially good to party-linked voters only. Non-party fellows did not move his heart so much. That’s a big reason why quite a few voters have lost political respect for the Maharathy family. Apart from all this, the masses are openly critical of any politicians who use force through bands of hoodlums that spread fear to extract votes.
Allegedly, Pradeep was one such politician. The moot point currently is the unimpressive credentials of the junior Maharathy pitted by the great party.
If he were an IITian or an eminent doctor or a skilled engineer or a scientist or a lovable social worker, people would have welcomed him with open arms. The only qualification he is able to flaunt is the invincible supremo Naveen Patnaik’s name, which he knows sells like mad.
Without a bit of doubt, the Naveen tag will carry him through the most part, but there is fear of getting beaten too if he is not able to convince masses that his heart truly aches over public misery. The bad aspect about the Maharathy legacy is that the fairly accepted late politician had himself become strikingly wealthy after coming to politics.
He may not have stolen a penny, but politicians flaunting wealth and leading a kingly life do not go well with the electorate. And unfortunately, the extended family members are routinely rated very low on the social image parameters. There has been methodical ground research to predict poll outcome. But it is now becoming more and more difficult with the fast-changing circumstances.
One gets to see the public displeasure and ire writ large on the non-vocal faces. Rudra Maharathy may eventually lap victory, but that will solely be due to the huge Naveen wave that has not waned a bit in twenty long years. The new Congress candidate will not make much sense now that the good one is gone, who would have at the most captured some votes good enough to keep deposit intact. But all said and done, the
Congress in Odisha, like in most parts of India, has degenerated into something of an abstract idea only; it is not a concrete body anymore.
The big contender is the BJP candidate, Ashrit Pattanayak, who has been steadily gaining ground. Though, not a character of great substance, education and world-exposure wise, he seems to be garnering popularity by citing late Maharathy’s blunders and his monumental political arrogance.
A few keen observers say any other fellow than the Maharathy family member would have won the battle with a record margin. But the little kid, who appears rather ‘parents-pampered’, has nothing substantial to show, tell or promise the electorate. He keeps fumbling a parroted line: “I will fulfil all the unrealised dreams of my illustrious father.” But then, the voters are utterly confused as to what specific dreams the late Maharathy nurtured.
Bitter critics keep fuming “more farm houses, more money to abuse and possibly another ‘theatre party’ and some luxury passenger buses with which he had begun humbly at the beginning”.
Political experts say rather ruefully, “It’s a great shock that a demigod like Naveen Patnaik could not figure out that pushing brats to victory against visible public odds would be a herculean task anyway.”
The Naveen magic is certain to work, but the margin of victory, if at all it comes as usual, will not be commendable. Party guys have to walk several extra miles to usher in the ignorant young boy to the sacred interiors of the lawmaking temple.