The 2014 general elections may witness the participation of a record number of regional political parties and political outfits based in Odisha. Apart from the old existing regional outfits, at least five new political parties have emerged during the last few years. And most of these political parties have been hosted by known political figures of the state. The latest one is Ama Odisa Party (AOP), floated by former MP Soumya Ranjan Patnaik. Owner-Editor of Odisha’s largest media house and former AICC member, Patnaik has formed this party after his expulsion from Congress. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik was of the opinion that “AOP will try its best to offer the much-needed political alternative that can replace the ruling Biju Janata Dal ( BJD) and Congress Party in Odisha.” Now, AOP is on the toes to declare the list of candidates for almost all assembly and Parliamentary seats here.
Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, Rajya Sabha MP and long time close aide of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, had also floated a regional political party in April last year. Mohapatra formed Odisha Jana Morcha (OJM) after he was expelled from BJD following a futile attempt to topple the Naveen government on 29th May, 2012. Pyari Mohan and other rebellious leaders of BJD are key functionaries of OJM, who were upset with the autocratic functioning of the Odisha Chief Minister. Though the OJM boss had earlier hinted at a possible alliance with BJP in the ensuing elections but that couldn’t materialize as local BJP leaders opposed his association, sources said. Later on, OJM decided to go on its own and became the first political party in the state to release the candidate list for the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections. The party has announced names of candidates for two of the state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats and 16 of the 147 assembly segments so far.
Two other newly born regional political outfits are also in the poll-fray. Former BJP MP Kharavela Swain’s Utkal Bharat (UB) and Former Union Steel and Mines Minister Braja Kishor Tripathy’s Samata Kranti Dal (SKD) have already blown the election bugle. The founders of both these parties have held talks with BJP’s Odisha in-charge Chandan Mitra and central leader Arun Jaitley for seat sharing arrangements. But the talks ended with negative outcomes. UB has already declared names of most of its candidates much ahead of the general elections. The party has named 28 candidates in 15 districts for assembly constituencies and one for the Kendrapada Lok Sabha seat in April, 2013. Similarly, SKD is also going alone in the poll after a failure to reach a seat sharing arrangement with BJP. Braja Kishor Tripathy, who had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket after quitting BJD, has declared, “We will field candidates in 10 to 13 Lok Sabha constituencies and 14 to 15 assembly segments.”
Similarly, small-time political outfit Kalinga Sena is also on its toes to field candidates in the coming Lok Sabha and state assembly elections. The party will also fight from all the 147 assembly constituencies of Odisha alone. Hemanta Rath, Chief of Kalinga Sena, has declared, “We would field our candidates in 147 assembly and 21 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state and we will not share seats with any of the political parties in Odisha.” One might remember that the Kalinga Sena had hogged headlines after its activists had allegedly slapped the former Indian cricket team coach Greg Chappell at the Bhubaneswar Airport in 2007.
Not to forget that in September last year, about a dozen of small regional parties and outfits floated the Odisha Jan Sammukhya (OJS) with an aim to jointly contest the elections under a single manifesto. Leaders of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Samruddha Odisha, Republican Party of India (RPI), Odisha Communist Party, Paschim Odisha Vikas Party, Utkal Samaj, Mitra Shakti and some other outfits became members of OJS. Even OJS has declared its list of candidates for 4 Lok Sabha and 20 state assembly segments. OJS has given a majority of seats to the regional outfit Samrudha Odisha, which is led by bureaucrat turned politician Jatish Chandra Mohanty. While Odisha Vikash Party has fielded a candidate in one Loksabha and one assembly seat, Odisha Communist Party and Utkal Samaj have fielded candidates only in one assembly segment each.
Another small regional political party has taken birth last year. Some self styled followers of former legendary leader Biju Patnaik had floated the Biju Swaviman Dal (BSD) to put up candidates in the 2014 elections. BSD has planned to field candidates in all the 147 assembly constituencies in the upcoming elections and they plan to contest the Lok Sabha polls also. According to Paramananda Jotish, the president of the new outfit, “BSD does not have any links with any political party. The objective of the party is to fulfill the dreams of legendary Biju Patnaik and carry forward the Odia pride.”
A reference should be made about Koshal Kranti Dal (KKD). Floated in 2007, this party is fighting for a separate state comprising ten districts of western Orissa and Athmallik sub-division of Angul district as it alleges that the areas have remained neglected by successive governments during the past 60 years. KKD has declared the name of its candidate for the Narla assembly seat in Kalahandi district and will declare candidates for Brajarajnagar, Bhatli, Sundargarh Sadar, Biramitrapur and Talsara assembly constituencies belongs to western Odisha soon. It has also declared its candidate for the Parliamentary seat of Sundargarh. “In the previous elections, KKD had contested only to spread the party’s message,” said Baidyanath Mishra, president of KKD.
“Mushrooming of small political parties having regional agendas is not at all a bad trend. I think in a democracy like ours, people having diverse viewpoints and ideologies should be given scope to express themselves and fight elections to examine the level of their acceptance in public eye,” says Prof. Jitendra Narayan Dash, a political science expert.