Not Just His Tribal Background: Four Other Reasons Why Mohan Charan Majhi Fits The Bill For BJP In Odisha

Aryaman Sharma

Jun 12, 2024, 12:53 AM | Updated 12:53 AM IST

Mohan Chandra Majhi, Odisha's next chief minister
Mohan Chandra Majhi, Odisha's next chief minister
  • Four-time MLA, Mohan Charan Majhi will be the BJP's first chief minister in Odisha.
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) significant win in Odisha has been largely overlooked given an underwhelming performance in the Lok Sabha.

    The party secured an impressive 20 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats and 78 out of 147 seats in the Assembly elections held simultaneously.

    While the BJP’s breach of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) strongholds like Aska is noteworthy, the current focus is on the BJP’s choice for Odisha's chief minister post after a hard-fought victory.

    Understanding Odisha's politics can be challenging when compared to its neighboring states.

    For 24 years, Naveen Patnaik served as Chief Minister, shaping the state's political landscape. However, the recent Assembly elections saw the BJP win, pushing the BJD back to 51 seats.

    This shift was influenced by factors like Patnaik's failing health, V.K. Pandian, and corruption.

    Odisha is unique in that Prabhu Jagannath transcends caste identity, unlike in neighboring states where caste plays a significant role. Therefore, direct comparisons are inappropriate.

    The BJP has chosen Mohan Charan Majhi for the chief minister's post, with Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo and Parvati Parida as the two deputy chief ministers.

    Majhi belongs to the Santhal tribe, but this is not the primary reason for his selection.

    He has a strong RSS background, is a four-time MLA from Keonjhar, and served as the BJP’s Legislature Party's Chief Whip in the last Vidhan Sabha term (2019-2024).

    Mohan Majhi at an RSS event
    Mohan Majhi at an RSS event

    Despite his relatively low profile, he is far from a newcomer in politics or social life. Majhi has been associated with the RSS for over 40 years, worked as a teacher at the RSS-backed Saraswati Shishu Vidyalaya, and comes from a farming background.

    He has been a part of various Assembly committees since 2000 and has chaired the Public Accounts Committee in Odisha since 2022.

    Majhi is known for his strict and proactive approach within the party. He has exposed numerous scams in the BJD government, including a notable incident where he threw uncooked dal at the Speaker of the House to protest against a 700 crore midday meal scam, resulting in his suspension from the Assembly.

    It is important to recognize that Majhi fulfills several strategic roles that the BJP needs to address at this time.

    1. Confidence on administrative skills - BJP cannot experiment in Odisha and wants an administrator who can perform.

    2. Handle the bureaucrats - A significant part of the people's mandate against BJD, despite their love for Naveen Patnaik, was due to anger against the increasing grip of bureaucrats in state politics and rampant corruption.

    This is evident in the flurry of resignations, VRS requests, or six-month leaves many administrators are taking just after the results were announced on 4 June.

    BJP needed someone who could confront them and get them to work within their space.

    Majhi fits the bill with his longstanding reputation as a go-getter and his non-appeasement behaviour.

    3. Loyal to the party - It is important to understand that he has been the longest-standing anti-BJD voice when many were supportive of Patnaik.

    He never left the party, even when he had the opportunities. Some who disliked him even tried to assassinate him by planting a bomb in his car unsuccessfully in 2021.

    This shows how effective he was and sends a good message to workers at a time when BJP has been accused of being a "washing machine."

    4. RSS-backed - He is an RSS-backed candidate, having fought against conversions of tribals in his area, having served as a teacher at Saraswati Shishu Vidyalaya, and having maintained a 40-year association with the Sangh.

    5. Tribal CM - Lastly, whether one likes it or not, Majhi, while also being the most capable candidate BJP has, will signal support to tribals, who largely stood with BJP in the shaky 2024 mandate.

    Odisha will get a tribal CM for the first time in 52 years, and a full-time one, who is not easily appeased and is known as a doer.

    As a non-controversial and suave person, Majhi enjoys strong support from Adivasis of Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, and western Odisha.

    By appointing Mohan Charan Majhi as chief minister, the BJP and the RSS have shown they mean business in Odisha. They aim to create a stronghold for the BJP in the state.

    Majhi may not be a fancy socialite for the media, but he is a doer in the field and is known for having his ears to the ground, which is exactly what the BJP needs to make Odisha another Gujarat or MP-like stronghold.

    Now comes the question: why not Dharmendra Pradhan?

    The answer is simple—he won his own Lok Sabha seat with a razor-thin majority in a difficult seat against BJD strongman Bobby Das, who now has greater influence in the BJD and wants a bigger role since V.K. Pandian has left politics.

    Taking chances with a simple majority in the state and a coalition at the centre wouldn’t have been a good decision.

    Also, the BJP needed someone local with experience in local administration. Majhi fits most of the criteria, and his tribal background is an added advantage for the upcoming elections in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand.

    Additionally, by appointing a CM from a weak and backward district like Keonjhar, the BJP demonstrates it is here for business and delivering results—a bold and effective statement.

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