It’s too late for Damodar Rout’s new party even to be a spoiler in the 2019 elections

By Priya Ranjan Sahu –

Veteran leader and former minister Damodar Rout, who was expelled from the Biju Janata Dal in September, announced the formation of a new regional party, Biju Samatakranti Dal, on Friday.

Joining the Samata Kranti Dal headed by former Union minister Braja Kishore Tripathy, Rout said the proposed new party would take shape after amalgamating SKD into it following required formalities. Both Rout and Tripathy vowed to fight the ruling BJD led by chief minister Naveen Patnaik head on as “it is steeped in rampant corruption from block to panchayat levels”.

Tripathy, an affable man, has been in political wilderness for a long times since he left the BJD and nothing much can be expected of him politically. But even enemies cannot make the mistake of ruling out Rout, who has bounced back to action several times during his chequered political career. He may be mercurial, shooting his mouth off too often, but he has his feet firmly on the ground. He is a big force in Paradip-Ersama area of Jagatsinghpur district.

But the problem is, the next assembly and general elections are just few months away. It is highly unlikely that the Biju Samatakranti Dal will crystalise into a major political force at such a short notice.

Rout has other disadvantages as well. Though he may alter the political dynamics to some extent in Jagatsinghpur, he’s not a face to reckon with across Odisha. Besides, he does not know much about the rest of the state like other fallen stars such as Bijay Mohapatra and Pyarimohan Mohapatra.

Bijay Mohapatra was the all powerful deputy of the late Biju Patnaik and knew – he still knows – the political geography of all blocks in the state. Pyarimohan Mohapatra, when he pulled the strings in the BJD, knew the names of party workers not only in blocks but in gram panchayat levels.

When the dynamic Bijay Mohapatra floated the Odisha Gana Parishad after leaving BJD, many observers expected that it would become a major force politically. Later OGP merged with NCP but circumstances led to the disintegration of the latter and pushed the Biju follower to the BJP. But the man, who many thought, had the potential to be a chief minister, has been cornered in the BJP.

Likewise, following his expulsion from the BJD, Pyarimohan Mohapatra floated the Odisha Jan Morcha a year before 2014 elections. But despite his expertise in electoral arithmetic, which many believed hugely contributed to BJD’s phenomenal growth, OJM failed to take off.

Politically, Rout’s position at the moment is more fragile than both the Mahapatras when they had floated their parties. In politics, timing is very important for every decision and, unfortunately, time does not seem to be on the side of the old warhorse from Jagatsinghpur.

It is too late for Rout or his new party even to be a spoiler in the 2019 elections with the main opposition, the Congress and BJP, jostling with each other to be the BJD’s main challenger. At best, Rout can hope to save his fiefdom of Paradip-Ersama area from being swallowed by other political forces, and live to fight another day.