Naveen Patnaik’s BJD, which has been ruling Odisha for two decades, has announced that it is open for a post-poll alliance with either a BJP or Congress-led coalition to form government at the centre. Party vice president Surya Narayan Patro has asserted that the party has only ‘Odisha’s best interests’ in mind and will support the alliance which will ensure the special category status of the state.
Biju Janata Dal has made it clear that they are open to supporting any front, led by BJP or the Congress on the condition of protecting Odisha’s interest. Listen in. | #May23WithTimesNow
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) May 18, 2019
The announcement by the party comes after the state has already voted for the general elections and the assembly elections. Odisha had voted in the first 4 phases that ended on April 29.
The announcement is a stark deviation from the party’s stand since months before the general elections. Naveen Patnaik had kept asserting before the elections that his party will maintain equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress.
Naveen Patnaik had not attended the oath-taking ceremony of Karnataka’s CM HD Kumaraswamy in May last year. Patnaik was also absent from Mamata Banerjee’s mega rally at Brigade grounds, Kolkata earlier this year. These were the two events where the idea of an anti-BJP united opposition was floated from.
In fact, Naveen Patnaik had declared that the BJD was not to be a part of the Mahagathbandhan, in as many words.
— OTV (@otvnews) January 9, 2019
Patnaik had also hinted at a non-BJP, non-Congress ‘Federal Front’ after his meeting with Telangana’s K Chandrasekhar Rao.
It is notable here that Naveen Patnaik’s BJD was a part of the NDA earlier. Patnaik himself had served as a minister in Atal Bihar Vajpayee’s cabinet. BJD had formed a coalition government with BJP in Odisha from 2000 to 2009. In the 2009 elections, the BJD had declared the BJP as ‘communal party’ and had fought solo, winning two consecutive elections in 2009 and 2014 with a clear majority in the state.
Just days after the elections on April 29, Odisha was hit with an extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani that caused extensive damage to the state resources and infrastructure. Naveen’s government had always maintained a remarkable track record of disaster management through several cyclones and floods over the years.
During and after Cyclone Fani too, the state government’s efforts at evacuation, preparation and management was praised widely. PM Modi had visited the state on May 6 and had openly praised Naveen’s government for its handling of the pre and post cyclonic situation.
Naveen’s stand after the cyclone was also praised by political watchers as a sharp contrast to Mamata Banerjee’s staunch denial to even meet the PM and take his requests for a review meeting for relief and restoration works in West Bengal. Patnaik received accolades for keeping his political stand aside and co-operate with the central government fully when it came to relief and reconstruction work in Odisha.
In Odisha’s political circles, whispers of a changing stand and future prospects have already started. More so after Naveen Patnaik penned a ‘thank you’ letter to PM Modi for all the help the central government had provided to the state for relief and restoration work. The CMO had also thanked union minister Dharmendra Pradhan for his ministry’s help.
Thank Union Minister Shri @dpradhanbjp for considering our request to provide 1,000 KL of Kerosene Oil free of cost to #CycloneFani ravaged #Odisha. It would help meet the immediate demand for Kerosene Oil for lighting purpose.
— CMO Odisha (@CMO_Odisha) May 13, 2019
Throughout its election campaign in the state, BJD had maintained that it will retain its 2014 clean sweep of Lok Sabha seats in the state and will play a decisive role in forming the next government at the centre. In 2014, BJD had won 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in Odisha.
It is notable here that Odisha has also voted for the state assembly along with the Lok Sabha, an assembly where Patnaik’s party is facing a two-decade anti-incumbency. The incumbent BJD government had 118 seats in the 147 seat assembly and a significant reduction in those numbers is expected, especially after BJP’s spectacular performance in the state local body polls.
BJD and BJP had been vocally campaigning against each other in the state. But interestingly, BJD had also voted in support of NDA’s Rajya Sabha deputy chairman candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh last year. As the nation votes for the last 59 Lok Sabha seats tomorrow and holds its breaths till May 23, in any scenario other than a clear NDA majority, BJD’s support will hold significant power.
BJD’s declaration of considering an alliance with BJP or Congress will also let negotiators in both parties into active mode. Congress, desperate for support from regional parties, will sure try its best to woo Patnaik.