Coalition Unlikely

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah’s open praise for Biju Janata Dal (BJD)’s stand on the illegal migrant issue in the National Capital has created a ripple in Odisha Politics.

While opposition Congress is out to question Naveen Patnaik’s claim of maintaining equal distance from both the NDA and the UPA, people in BJD apprehend that their party is inching close to the saffron outfit. Even some of Naveen’s Cabinet colleagues and senior Lawmakers wonder if the party President is returning to the NDA fold.
As nobody inside the party has properly understood Naveen, many BJD leaders are in a state of worry.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik is of the opinion that his party has already spelt out the stand that BJD is hand in gloves with BJP. He also called Naveen’s ‘equal distance’ stand an “eyewash.”

Amit Shah after a debate over the NRC categorically said that only BJD and none else has taken a stand similar to that of BJP. It is a fact that Naveen has several times taken decisions which favored Narendra Modi’s policies.
Be it an economic policy such as Demonetization or GST or a political stand like the election of President of India, BJD Supremo has all along gone with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is creating an impression that BJD and BJP still continue to have a secret relationship even after their electoral alliance broke up in 2009.
Rajya Sabha MP Prasanna Acharya, however, defended his party’s stand on NRC and said that BJD will pledge its support to protect the interest of the nation and the state. On the national issue, no one should do politics, he said, adding, “We have also clarified our stance on the National Register of Citizens in Parliament. Many citizens have been excluded and they should get another chance. It is a sensitive national issue. We are not supporting any party, but will pledge our support to protect the interest of the nation and (that of) Odisha."
Since Mr.Patnaik’s mind has been akin to the policies of Mr.Modi, people too have reasons to suspect that BJD may go to revive its old relationship with the saffron party. Both the parties had united and become parts of the BJD-BJP government from 2000 to 2009.  
As barely eight months are left for the next general elections and state Assembly polls, political elements in BJD are worried over the Chief Minister’s stand. They feel that the Supremo has been tilting towards BJP and may go for an alliance with the saffron party before the 2019 elections.
The leaders in BJD have also reasons to worry as they might be denied tickets; even ministerial berths will be divided if BJD goes for seat adjustment.
As such, the regional party is swelling with leaders and many prominent people from different parties have joined the regional outfit looking at its electoral prospects. If Naveen goes for an alliance, many senior leaders in BJD will prefer to break their heads in frustration, insiders admit.
However, is it justified to conclude that Naveen will go for an alliance? Political observers who have been constantly keeping track on Naveen’s working style, however, strongly reject the possibility.
Who requires forging an alliance? The party which feels that it cannot win polls alone usually searches for an electoral partner. In case of BJD, there is no such fear. The regional party even after 19 years in Government, goes strong and there is no other party close to it. Neither BJP nor Congress has the potential to dislodge it.
This is not all. BJD continued to remain at the top in all subsequent elections including last year’s panchayat elections. It is, however, a fact that BJP could raise its tally in the Zilla Parishads, but could not cross BJD’s figure. Congress had finished third, and is now fighting hard to retain its second slot in the state politics. Therefore, at any given time, BJD has no compulsion to go for an alliance.
This apart, Naveen also knows the pain of running a coalition government from his experience between 2000 and 2009. It is also a fact that Naveen had entered into an alliance in 2000 because then the regional party needed that.
The party was just born and Naveen was not known in the state. There was a nationwide Vajpayee wave in 2000 and Naveen took advantage of it. The situation has changed. Naveen has emerged as the most popular leader in the state and has the ability to defuse massive Narendra Modi wave in 2014. The result was: BJD won 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats while BJP could win in only one.
As a partner in the NDA earlier, Naveen had never broken the “Coalition Dharma” and had all along maintained dignity even as the then NDA government denied Odisha a Special Category State Status. Unlike other partners, Naveen had never blackmailed the NDA Government and behaved like a gentleman.
 His relationship with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani was excellent. Under the changed circumstances, Naveen can hardly repose trust in the Modi-Shah combine, which is on saffron expansion move. Therefore, having a coalition with the present BJP regime may not be wise on Naveen’s part.
The people close to Naveen also believe that supporting a government on a particular issue or two does not mean that it is an indication of an alliance. Supporting a party on an issue may enhance the goodwill between the two, but that may not necessarily end up in a coalition.
While dropping BJP from the coalition, Naveen had dubbed it a “communal party.” How can he accept the same “communal party” in 2018, after parting ways in 2009?

Therefore, Naveen is unlikely to go for an alliance with the saffron party. However, insiders in BJD are not convinced as they fail to read the mind of the BJD Supremo, who is an enigma for them.

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