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Will Odisha CM’s cozying up to Modi, BJP help?

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Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau
New Delhi, Oct 7:

What made the Odisha chief minister rush to Prime Minister for the second time in four months and what was he really trying to achieve through his one-to-one meeting? Although it was a privileged conversation, the details of which may never become public, it was surely not about the impending threat of cyclone Hudhud.

NAVEEN PATNAIKThe long press note issued by the CMO on Monday on the content of the discussion between the PM and the CM is truthful only to the extent that all these issues were part of a written memorandum formally submitted by the latter during the course of the meeting. This was done obviously for public consumption and to keep the real contents of the conversation away from public gaze.

Interestingly, all the issues reportedly raised by the CM (as per the official press release ) were stale ones that had already been taken up with the Centre, some of them repeatedly, by the Odisha government in the past.

So what was it all about?

Going by the whispers in Delhi’s political corridors, it appears to have been a hard bargain between two politicians as distinct from one between a chief minister and a prime minister and centred around issues and subjects that have little to do with Odisha’s interests.

There are reports that Naveen Patnaik has already made commitments to extend unqualified support to the NDA government and, if the grapevine is be trusted, even ready to join the ruling alliance at the Centre if he gets his pound of flesh in the form of political protection from the imminent threat of being mauled by the central investigation agency in the multiple scams that he and his government find themselves in.

Interestingly senior Odisha BJP leader Ashok Sahu in his Facebook post says, ” PM refused protection to CM in CBI investigation into the Chit Fund scam in Odisha and also into the Mega Mining Scam. Other demands by the CM were as usual and PM has assured to look in to those on merits in each case….CM Naveen Patnaik must have felt as how different this PM as compared to his Congress counterpart.”

While there is no way the veracity of Sahu’s comment can be crosschecked, it’s an affirmation of the popular perception about the real motivation behind Naveen Patnaik seeking a personal meeting with the PM.

Sources said Naveen is cozying up to the BJP to ensure three things – one, to seek protection from the CBI probe into the chit fund, coal and mining scams; two, keep their aggressive state unit under leash and three, to prevent a high profile BJD MP from getting closer to the top leadership of the BJP.

However, there are serious and nearly insuperable obstacles to a possible BJP-BJD tie up at any level.

Firstly, the state unit of the BJP will oppose the idea tooth and nail. The state BJP is now dreaming of coming to power in Odisha. And it is not as far fetched as it sounds. The Congress is in a shambles at the moment and fissures have started to show up in the BJD ranks. The BJP can hope to come to power only if it manages to weaken and alienate Naveen Patnaik and, if possible, engineer a split in the ruling party. There is, therefore, no reason why the party would come to the aid of the BJD supremo or try to bail him out and harm its own cause in the process.

Secondly and more importantly, Narendra Modi appears to be in no mood to accommodate regional parties in his scheme of things. A dominant section of the saffron party believes that regional parties have been responsible for political instability at the Centre and need to be stopped in their tracks. They are of the view that these regional players have been responsible for  formation of weak and vaccillating coalition governments at the Centre thus impeding good governance and progress. It is likely, political analysts say, that the saffron party would do everything possible to weaken these regional outfits.

This in a way explains why the BJP, which enjoys absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, is not making any effort to woo regional parties or to bend to accommodate their whims. The break up in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra and the bitter confrontation with the Trinamool Congress in Bengal are clear pointers that appear to substantiate the new thinking within the BJP.

Some argue that since the BJP needs BJD’s support in the Upper House, Naveen may still be able to wrest some concessions in the bargain. But the truth is the regional outfit does not have either the political courage to stand up to the BJP or the ability to resort to any kind of arm-twisting.

So, where does it leave Naveen Patnaik and his party ? Political analysts say, this can not be answered in a hurry and that the best option is to wait and watch.