Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi/ Bhubaneswar, Apr 15:
Having hobnobbed with what was then called the Third Front in the run up to the last elections, the BJD, the ruling party in Odisha, today categorically ruled out joining the new political formation of six parties which merged earlier in the day in a bid to revive the old Janata Parivar.
Not content with its refusal to join the new party, the BJD dubbed the six regional parties – SP, RJD, JD(U), JD(S), INLD and SJP, which merged today under the leadership of Samajwadi Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav – “abandoned by people.”
“BJD’s performance has been different in Odisha and the people of the state have elected us for the fourth consecutive time. The parties that got together today have been abandoned by people. BJD has not discussed any such proposal with them. If we are able to garner support from people of the state as a regional party, there is no need to join a national one,” said BJD spokesperson Amar Prasad Satapathy mockingly.
Earlier, BJD’s parliamentary party chief Bhartruhari Mahtab had taken a similar stance while calling this merger a “phobia” while speaking to a national daily.
“The latest reason for the planned merger is clearly the BJP phobia that parties such as RJD, SP, JD(U) and others are suffering from. Unlike the BJD led by Navin Babu, they have failed to defeat BJP. BJD sees no definite ideological and programmatic factors involved in this merger effort. The merger of parties based on their combined phobia can’t be a solution,” Mahtab had said.
It may be noted that contrary to public perception of BJD’s neutral stance, BJD’s stance on joining the old Janata Parivar has been an on and off affair. Earlier, Naveen wanted to wait and watch.
“Our party has not taken any stand on that (joining Janata Parivar) issue yet. We are waiting for the future,” Paitnaik had said on November 9, 2014 after Mulayam Singh Yadav of SP called on leaders of six political parties, who were once part of the Janata Dal to decide on a strategy to counter the growing importance of BJP in national politics.
This makes out an interesting case given Naveen’s early involvement with the Janata Parivar parties to create a third front before the general elections of last year.
“I think the Third Front is a very healthy option,” he had said on April 15, 2013.
Mulayam Singh Yadav had floated the idea of a Third Front in the run up to the general elections of 2014 and the leaders went on to announce the name of BJD as a participant.
BJD was more than keen and was a part of the first phase of discussion that took place on Feb 5, 2014 when the Janata Parivar parties wanted to come together before the general elections along with the Left. The party had participated in the first meeting of the 11-party front and BJD Chief Naveen Patnaik had deputed senior party MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda to the meeting on February 5.
Curiously enough, on Feb 26, 2014 when the front took its final shape, BJD was conspicuously absent. Clearly taken aback by the BJD decision, a dumbfounded CPM and now Third Front leader Prakash Karat had tried to explain away BJD chief Naveen Patnaik’s absence saying he had ‘prior engagements’ while claiming that he was ‘still with the front.’
However, speaking to the media in Bhubaneswar, Patnaik seemed to distance himself from a Third Front that he hd backed in the past and said, “I think the movement (Third Front) is still in its early days. I had said this earlier.”
The party clearly made up its mind after the survey reports suggested that BJD was supposed to do well if it went alone and showed the prospects of the Third Front as dim. It obviously didn’t want to carry the baggage of others in the opportunistic games it plays.
Soon after “Our party will maintain equidistance from both BJP and Congress,” became Naveen’s standard line, something that he has held on to even now despite tell-tale signs of cozying up to the BJP led government at the Centre in the last few weeks.