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BJD to revive ties with NDA under pretext of Odisha’s ‘larger interests’ ?

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Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 14:

The ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha appears grossly divided over the stance the party should adopt with regard to government formation in Delhi post May 16.

The intra-party debate, ahead of Naveen Patnaik’s return to the state capital on Wednesday, was triggered following the on-camera statement by the government chief whip and senior BJD leader Pravat Tripathy, indicating BJD’s willingness to extent ‘conditional support’ to the BJP-led NDA.

Pravat Tripathy, BJD leader
Pravat Tripathy, BJD leader

Talking to a local news channel on Tuesday, after several exit polls indicated a decisive victory for the BJP-led NDA, Tripathy said there should be no problem in extending conditional support to NDA to form the government at the Centre , provided it promises to accord special state category status to Odisha and allay fears that the proposed Polavaram project in neighboring Seemandhra would not affect the state.

Tripathy’s statement has annoyed many senior BJD leaders who feel he has spoken out of turn.

Party veteran and Health minister Dr Damodar Rout says it’s improper for anybody other than the party president to spell out what stand the BJD would take after the results are announced.

The state BJP leaders, who are ‘very confident’ that the Modi-led NDA would win a comfortable majority in Lok Sabha and form the next government at the Centre, feel they would not need the support of a small number of MPs from a party which ‘back-stabbed’ them in 2009.

Former Revenue minister and senior BJP leader Biswa Bhushan Harichandan, who appeared reluctant to comment on Tripathy’s statement, said the final decision on such matters would be taken by the central party leaders, who may consult the state unit if they so like.

The question is: why did Tripathy go public about the possibility of BJD extending support to BJP knowing full well that Naveen Patnaik had ruled it out several times in the recent past, and ahead of his return to the state capital ?

Observers say Tripathy, who is perceived to be part of the party’s “new coterie”, cannot be seen as an accidental or off-the-cuff utterance.

File pic : Naveen with Modi
File pic : Naveen with Modi

“ Tripathy’s statement, ahead of Naveen’s return to Bhubaneswar on Wednesday, is neither a slip of tongue nor a personal view, but a deliberate and calculated move by the party leadership to test the waters,” a senior journalist reacting to Tripathy’s statement told OST.

All along Naveen Patnaik has been saying the BJD would be equidistant from the NDA and the UPA and has steadfastly refused to spell out his party’s stand vis a vis the proposed Third Front. Not only that, the chief minister has also dismissed Modi as a PM candidate, saying he did not enjoy a pan-India acceptance as a national leader.

However, political observers feel Naveen Patnaik will have little option than appear friendly to BJP just in case it is in a position to form the next government in Delhi.

“ The reason is not difficult to decipher. Haunted by serious fears of being implicated in the coal and chit fund scams that the CBI is probing, he is most likely to waive the white flag to the new government and justify it by saying it was necessary in the larger interest of the state,” a senior Congress leader observed.

However, a senior BJD leader dismissed all such speculations saying Naveen Patnaik has no reason to fear the CBI probe because he is ‘super clean’ and is someone ‘whose every bone is secular’.

“How can he ever extend support to a leader (Modi ) “who is infamous for his communal agenda ?”, the leader asked.

“The final words on the party’s possible stance on the formation of the national government, will come from the “horse’s mouth” but don’t expect a clear-cut stand before May 17”, said a seasoned political observer who has been following Naveen’s politics for the last 15 years.