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Bonhomie At Risk


When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan during his first term, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan failed to get a state-run school in Odisha, where he could start the program. And now Mr.Pradhan is seen sharing dais with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at Utkal University Platinum Jubilee celebrations and at Khelo India program. Not onlyMr. Pradhan, two other Union Ministers, Kiren Rijiju and Ramesh Pokhriyal, also came down to Bhubaneswar to attend the program. 

It may be mentioned here that none of the Union Ministers including the Sports Minister had attended the Asian Athletics Championship held here in July 2017 and World Hockey Championship in November 2018. These events now clearly indicate the relationship between Mr.Pradhan and Mr.Patnaik turning sweet.

After a long fight between Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), things have now changed for better. Both the leaders, who were not looking at each other’s face, are now exchanging smiles. Mr.Pradhan is now given more importance in the state than in the past. 

Mr.Pradhan, who is considered the face of the BJP in Odisha, has started praising Odisha government’s actions such as beautification of the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri, that of the Shree Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar and the State’s efforts to boost its tourism potential. Mr.Pradhan was also all praise for the State Government’s Eco Retreat at Konark. He also assured the Centre’s support to the State Government’s efforts. Now, instead of abusing the State, the Centre has been extending both financial and administrative support to the State’s development programs.

The change in the Centre-State relationship actually came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came closer to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik following declaration of the 2019 General Election results. An intelligent Naveen also mended his fences with Mr.Modi and BJP.

Keeping in view the attitude of the party central leadership, Mr.Pradhan changed the course and he now does not hesitate to hug the BJD Supremo. In the process, the Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister is getting all support from the State Government.

In view of the changed equations, BJD MPs also close their rank with BJP central leadership and get crucial posts in different Parliamentary Committees. Many BJD MPs, both from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, also nurture good relationship with Mr.Pradhan, who is the supreme commander of BJP in Odisha matters. BJD MPs are also showing their due respect to the senior saffron leader.

This apart, BJD MLAs, who continue to remain loyal to Naveen, also do not lose any opportunity to meet Mr.Pradhan when they visit the national capital. All the BJD legislators keep it in mind that they should not annoy Mr.Pradhan in any manner and make it a point to attend his programs in their constituencies.

No doubt, Naveen is the undisputed leader in Odisha. But what has emerged now, is that Dharmendra is certainly the future leader, so far as non-Congress leadership is concerned. This is the reason for which the leaders of both BJP and BJD now maintain good relationship with him.

There is absolute bonhomie between BJD and BJP. However, a section of BJP leaders in the state are not able to gauge the intensity of friendship between Mr.Patnaik and Mr.Pradhan. Several state saffron leaders often launch attack on the BJD government. BJP spokespersons, though make calculated statements, some of them still adopt the pre-election attitude of hostility. 

Political analysts believe that Naveen may not tolerate such type of approach adopted by these saffron leaders in Odisha. Sources close to him say that the BJD Supremo has helped the NDA government at the centre on all crucial issues.
 
Naveen’s support to the central government has already isolated him in national politics. His party -- the BJD -- is not a part of the NDA. People in the opposition camp all along expected Naveen to toe their line. 

Though many Congress, the Left and regional parties such as Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, Mayawati’s BSP, Akhilesh Yadav’s SJP, Lalu Prasad’s RJD and others have requested Naveen to stand with them, the BJD Supremo has all along maintained distance from all.

The BJD’s support to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act has raised question on his secular credentials. Despite being isolated, Naveen has extended support to the centre’s policies, be it demonetization, GST or CAA. This is not all; Naveen also gifted a Rajya Sabha seat to BJP even as many senior leaders in his party were aspiring for it. Naveen has sacrificed a lot to benefit the Modi regime at the cost of the regional outfit’s interests.

Despite all such developments, a section of BJP leaders in Odisha speak against the BJD government which may annoy the Chief Minister. If such a situation arises, Naveen may return to his age-old policy of maintaining equal distance from both the NDA and the UPA.

There should be no doubt that the NDA government at the centre will need BJD’s support, particularly in the Rajya Sabha.
If Naveen withdraws his ‘undeclared’ support, BJP will face trouble in the Upper House. Meanwhile, BJP has lost in many states and therefore, its strength in the Rajya Sabha is gradually going down.

Against this backdrop, Naveen’s support is necessary for the Modi government. However, if the BJP leaders in Odisha go on attacking the BJD in the state, situation may change. It is certainly a wrong allegation of Congress that BJD supports the BJP due to fear of CBI. It is wrong because Mamata Banerjee has all along been opposed to Mr.Modi and Mr.Shah.
 
But TMC Government going strong and is set to win another election even as BJP has made inroads in West Bengal.

This perceived fear would not cause harm to Naveen politically because of his popularity in the state and people’s unconditional support to his government.

Therefore, short-sighted saffron leaders in the state should learn a lesson or two from their leader Dharmendra Pradhan and should not put the bonhomie at risk.
 
 


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