Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

Odisha: Razzmatazz of Temples and Quest for Political Mileage Between BJD and BJP

DN Singh |
Looking for a sixth tenure, a fear of a decline in vote share may be one reason compelling BJD’s Naveen Patnaik to play the religious card by propping up the Puri Temple Corridor project.
Looking for a sixth tenure, a fear of a decline in vote share may be one reason compelling BJD’s Naveen Patnaik to play the religious card by propping up the Puri Temple Corridor project.

Image Courtesy: Twitter/@bjd_odisha

It seems to be a breathless effort by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) at the Centre for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. In Odisha, too, the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD (Biju Janata Dal) iis working overtime to complete the Puri Temple Heritage Corridor before the 2024 Lok Sabha poll.

The aim seems to be to garner as much focus as possible to prop up the temple as an exhibit and exploit religious sentiments to garner votes.

Little known for playing religious cards, Patnaik this time is overplaying the Puri project, which reflects his inner fear as whispers continue in parts of the state that BJP is up in arms to give a tough fight in the elections, regardless of the unspoken bonhomie between Patnaik and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Looking for a sixth tenure, a fear of decline in vote share may be one reason that is compelling Patnaik to take recourse to playing the “religious card”, as several ground realities create unease among the masses.         

The BJD dispensation has cleared many hurdles since the Chief Minister laid the foundation for the project in 2021 for the 75-meter corridor around the boundary wall of the majestic shrine in Puri.

Patnaik, who has, through the past few years, occupied the centre stage through some of his ground-breaking steps to globally showcase sports, hockey in particular, has this time decided to follow in the footsteps of the BJP, opting to add a religious theme in his electoral arsenal via the Puri Temple Heritage Parikrama Project (PTHPP).

PTHPP is a massive project at an estimated cost of Rs 968 crore aimed at turning the areas surrounding the shrine from, as alleged, chaotic to a modern and pilgrim-friendly circuit with a number of amenities. 

Interestingly, the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the PTHPP are nearly coinciding with each other, i.e. on January 22 and January 17, respectively, a gap of barely a week.

The move is being seen as a reflection of the tacit bonhomie between Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Patnaik, with the latter aiming at a sixth record term in the Assembly elections this year and Modi looking at a third tenure.

Both these leaders apparently are nursing  some fears about the decline in vote shares and thereby missing out on the ‘brute majority’ they enjoy in their respective Houses.

The compulsions behind the PTHPP can be gauged from its relentless pursuit by BJD leaders and the manner in which they have reportedly “compromised” with many restrictions on the way to see the project through.  

The major roadblocks came in February last year when the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) asked the state government to stop digging as it was a violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.  

Damage Done: ASI

However, when the case came before the Orissa High Court, the ASI tried to plead firmly through an affidavit and submitted that the archaeological remains of the heritage site may have already been destroyed during the excavation, as no heritage impact assessment studies were done before the digging.

There are striking similarities between both initiatives (Ayodhya and PTHPP) -- both were driven by religious sentiments, but critics feel they are not entirely free from political undertones.

Frequent live videos of Patnaik’s ‘Man Friday’, the 5T chairman and head of ‘Naveen Odisha’ VK Pandian, an ex-IAS turned BJD man, hyping the profile of the project precludes the

narrative that there is no politics behind its objectives.

Razzmatazz of Temples 

Like the Ayodhya Ram Temple is being projected as the “most significant achievement” made by the BJP for the country, the PTHPP has been hogging the headlines in Odisha with unfailing regularity, raising eyebrows among critics.

Looking at the importance of both the projects, one can deduce that in politics these are compulsions that guard the real issues and ensure that those remain buried under such razzmatazz.   

The writer is an independent journalist.  The views expressed are personal.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram