March 29, 2022
“BJD is not just a political party… It has become a social movement”. This succinct quote by Pranab Prakash Das, the BJD’s organizational secretary, distils the strength and essence of the ruling party in Odisha. The astounding victory of the BJD in the recently wound up elections for panchayat and urban local bodies is a testament to the party’s never-fading appeal with the hoi polloi. And the adulation which the BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik enjoys with the masses.
Behind the BJD halo of supremacy is one man sweating it out on the field, strengthening the party every single day.
Bobby Das, alias Pranab Prakash Das began tentative steps in politics but earned his stripes. Officially anointed the second in the hierarchy in the BJD cadre, next only to the party chieftain, Das has taken onto himself the gruelling task of connecting with the people at the grassroots. He has been single-handedly anchoring the show for his party, disseminating awareness on a plethora of people-centric schemes and making untiring efforts to ensure they are implemented in letter and spirit, and people avail the benefits as opposed to most politicians of his ilk.
Pranab eschewed the lucrative job of a Minister and instead took up the unglamorous organizational work. For the most part of his role, he has stayed away from the media glare and let his performance do the loud talk.
The BJD has witnessed the spectacular outcomes of his immense toil on the ground. For instance, the stunning outcomes of the recently concluded panchayat polls where the BJD wrested 766 out of 852 seats, reducing the Opposition to bit players in the electoral sweepstakes. While the Congress in Odisha is already decimated and continues to lick the wounds of defeat in poll after poll, the rout of the BJP came as a huge setback given their last electoral performance when the party had staged an upset, securing 292 seats in the panchayat polls of 2019. The BJP had emerged as the giant killers in its pocket boroughs- districts in western Odisha, Malkangiri and Mayurbhanj in the 2019 three-tier panchayat elections. But this time, the BJD crushed its principal Opposition to assert its hegemon status in Odisha politics.
Pranab enjoys the enormous confidence of his party boss, which is why he is the unchallenged leader when it comes to rejuvenating the party’s rank and file. He is often hobnobbing with the common people in interior villages and buoying his party’s grassroots leaders. Even when devastating cyclones like Fani and Amphan pommelled the Odisha coast, he rushed to the affected spots to help out the people in distress. Be it political manoeuvring or doing the preps for a critical election, Pranab has consistently shown why he is second to none. He has also established his credentials as an effective troubleshooter, quelling instances of party skirmishes. If the BJD is primarily perceived as a party of camaraderie and internal democracy, Pranab has made painstaking efforts to cement that image. He can also be an out-of-the-box thinker when the situation warrants it. His fielding of an inexperienced lady, a political greenhorn, as the candidate from Jajpur, his home constituency for ULB polls manifests this quality. For nearly three decades, Jajpur has chosen candidates for the Das family. But it takes a leader of Pranab’s stature to break that dynastic jinx and democratize the process of candidate selection.
Pranab has no vaulting ambition.
Unlike some heavyweights of BJD who nursed Chief Ministerial ambition and were forced out of the party fold, Pranab is a politician rooted in the people’s aspirations. A loyal soldier of the BJD camp, he is always raring to act at his party boss’ behest not for its heck but for the transformative outcomes they bring to the ground. He has already created a lasting imprint as the ‘people’s politician’, leading an austere life and letting his unpublicized homework speak wonders.
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