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They Need Each Other


When Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan went to Naveen Niwas for lunch, it became abundantly clear that BJD and BJP need each other.

Naveen Patnaik has been playing his cards carefully. He also invited non-Congress stalwarts Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee to the same lunch. And he gave a message to the saffron veteran that he also wants ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’.

The bonhomie between the two parties is essential as BJD needs the centre’s support to ensure smooth functioning of the government in the state, while BJP requires Naveen Patnaik’s help to get bills passed in the Parliament.

This apart, BJP also needs BJD’s help to get its candidate win a Rajya Sabha seat from Odisha. This is a crucial support which BJP now needs to improve its tally in the Upper House.

Though BJP has won 300-plus seats in the Lok Sabha, it requires the support of likeminded parties like BJD as the ruling party does not enjoy a majority in the house of the elders.  

Saffron heavyweight Amit Shah during his recent visit to the state has also given enough indication to his party rank and file that the BJP will go with Naveen Patnaik’s regional party. Shah, who is considered his party’s master strategist and who has the record of calling the BJD government as a ‘burnt down transformer’, has now softened his tone.

After having lunch with Naveen Patnaik, in his address to the party workers, Mr.Shah preferred to request the Odisha Chief Minister to ensure that the central funds reach the villages. There was no aggression in Shah’s voice this time, while he blasted the Congress and even the TMC over the CAA. Naveen is supporting the CAA.

Equally, BJD has also compromised its decade-long policy of maintaining ‘equi-distance’ from BJP and Congress. The BJD President had, before polls, said that his party would support any party that comes forward to assist Odisha.

And Naveen has been supporting the NDA government on crucial issues like CAA, Article 370, Triple Talaq and he also crossed the Laxman Rekha while respecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s request to support the BJP candidate Ashiwini Vaishnaw in the 2019 Rajya Sabha elections. Ever since Naveen shunned the equi-distance policy, he has been helping the central government. 

However, what has caused resentment among the BJD rank and file is the criticism of the State Government on day-to-day basis by the Odisha BJP leaders, though Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been maintaining a clear-cut stand on the lines of national leadership.

And now Mr.Pradhan is seen sharing dais with the Chief Minister in state level functions. Interestingly, Pradhan has endeared himself to the rank and file of Biju Janata Dal. Intelligently, he has softened his stand against Naveen and that’s why BJD lawmakers visiting Delhi have made it a point to call on the Steel Minister. In the process, Mr.Pradhan, slowly and steadily, has been making more friends in BJD. This will help the BJP in future, feel insiders in BJD.

‘While Naveen and BJD offer all out support to the BJP, its leaders in the state have been critical of the State Government,’ pointed out a Minister, adding, ‘What is the point in opposing the state government after Shah and Pradhan had lunch at Naveen Niwas? The BJP rank and file in the state should get a clear message from Mr.Shah’s action.’

Political observers, however, understand the compulsion of the Odisha BJP leaders. People have elected the saffron party as the principal opposition party after rejecting the Congress. Therefore, it is their duty as the main opposition to find out the lacuna in the government, which the BJP state leaders are doing. Though the present bonhomie does not escape the public eyes, the saffron party leaders have no alternative but to oppose the state government because of the opposition tag it carries.

The BJP leaders in Odisha have realized that whatever the party has achieved has become possible by opposing BJD and not by appeasing Naveen Patnaik. The saffron party increased the Lok Sabha tally from one to eight and Assembly tally from 16 to 23, by opposing Naveen Patnaik’s 20-year-old dispensation. The manner in which the BJD-BJP bonhomie is coming to the fore, people may not believe the saffron party when it speaks against BJD. The Congress is gradually getting detached from people. Had the Congress been strong, things would have been different today.   

The BJP this week raised the issue of alleged irregularities in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and took the matter to Union Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

The BJP leaders alleged gross discrepancies in the assessment of eligibility of beneficiaries. They said blatant favoritism and nepotism has become a part and parcel of the process.

The party also slammed the State Government for allegedly squeezing the power of gram panchayats. The state BJP President alleged that instead of delegating power to panchayat bodies, the ruling-BJD is centralizing all power for political interests. He also accused the BJD Government of crippling the three-tier panchayatiraj institutions (PRIs).

The state BJP’s allegation against the BJD Government is long and they also used to hold press conferences on daily basis to expose the administration, which they were doing before the 2019 polls and stopped after that. Now they have restarted their accusation on regular basis.

So BJD is irked over the role of the state saffron leadership. Insiders say, the Chief Minister is unhappy with such accusations, but taking it with a pinch of salt. He has all along not spoken a word against BJP, while maintaining his dharma.

BJD insiders term it ‘Ceasefire Period’ as the state needs support of the centre for taking up development projects. So ruling BJD is not in a mood to pick a quarrel with the saffron central leadership now for some time. Let’s wait. The 2024 general elections are quite distant now. 


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