Two persons having the same ambition and goal can never become friends despite appearing close to each other. This is evident from Odisha politics where ruling BJD and the opposition BJP pose as true friends, coming to the aid of each other at the time of need. Both the parties have been criticized for cheating people after getting votes and joining hands instead of acting as rivals.
The present situation has been created ahead of the ensuing by-elections to two Assembly segments, namely, Balasore and Trirtol. These by-polls will be held due to the sad demise of sitting lawmakers: Madanmohan Dutta (Balasore) and Bishnu Das (Tirtol). While the Balasore seat was with the BJP, the BJD candidate Das had won the Tirtol seat.
Both the parties, one ruling in the state and the other at the centre, have made separate strategies to win the seats; and BJD Supremo is eager to capture Balasore besides retaining Tirtol seat. The party has already started working on the issue as soon as the Election Commission of India announced that the by-polls in 60 Assembly seats including two from Odisha, would be held along with the Bihar assembly polls. The election process will be completed by November.
The regional outfit Biju Janata Dal is in fact in a fix after JD(U) President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar requested his Odisha counterpart and BJD President Naveen Patnaik to support Harivansh Narayan Singh, a NDA candidate for the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson elections. Though last time in 2018 BJD had supported JD(U) candidate Harivansh, who defeated Congress nominee B K Hariprasad, this time it is reluctant to make its stand clear.
Naveen, a clever politician and a five-time Chief Minister must be thinking twice before making any announcement on supporting the NDA candidate. Even if Naveen supported the NDA candidates on previous occasions, he is hesitant to pledge his party’s support to NDA publicly, keeping in view the ensuing by-polls in two Assembly segments, where both the parties will lock horns as Congress is too weak to take up a fight either with the BJD or the BJP. Therefore, one-to-one fight between the BJD and the BJP candidates are likely in these by-polls.
Under such circumstances, Naveen feels that open support to NDA may produce an adverse impact on the BJD’s electoral prospects in the by-polls. It may give a powerful weapon to the opposition Congress to make allegations that the BJD and BJP are hand in gloves and their fight is just a cover-up. It will have the same and equal results if BJD or BJP wins the polls. Even BJP also took advantage of Naveen’s support to NDA by saying that the regional party supports BJP out of fear and other matters. Therefore, Naveen is too cautious this time to make public announcements on his party’s possible support to the NDA candidate. Sources in the BJD, however, said that the party President has already directed issuance of a whip on the Rajya Sabha MPs to remain present throughout the day in the Upper House on September 14 as the elections for the Deputy Chairperson post will be held.
That could be the only reason for which the BJD refused to share its whip order letter issued to Rajya Sabha MPs, with the media even as the regional party was liberal to share all the developments with media. As a calculated move, Naveen does not want to make any public announcement in this regard even though the BJD President did not hesitate to announce his party’s support to BJP candidate Ashiwini Vaishnaw in the Rajya Sabha polls last year.
Naveen made such an announcement in full media glare because then there were no such elections up close and the general election had been completed. It is another matter that the regional party had to face criticism from across the country for supporting a BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha election. This step is quite unheard of and no political party gifts an RS seat to its rival party. But, Naveen took the risk and even today critics do not hesitate to raise the issue at appropriate time.
Then, the question is obvious: why did Naveen support a BJP candidate in the RS polls? The answer is very simple. His act of gifting a RS seat did not have any impact on the electoral prospect of the ruling regional party. There was no such election in the near future and the difference of one seat in the Upper House of Parliament could hardly affect the BJD’s importance in national politics.
However, Naveen as it has been observed since his entry into politics in 1997 does not tolerate any sort of defeat in elections. He may give a seat or two to the rival party, but will never allow any one, be it BJP, Congress or left parties, defeat the regional party in election and snatch away victory.
Naveen has a great hunger to win polls and this appetite continues to grow in him even as his party holds reign of power for five consecutive times. Keeping his attitude towards politics in view, Naveen is reluctant to make his party’s announcement on supporting the BJP.
Naveen has all along been supporting the BJP led NDA in all the issues, be it demonetization, GST, CAA, Triple Talaq Bill or anything else. He also did not join the opposition on many occasions including on a recent move on denial of GST compensation to states.
That could be the only reason for which Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman openly praised Odisha for its successful disaster management. The BJD Supremo is fully with the BJP, but when it comes to electoral politics, he is no friend to anyone, be it Narendra Modi or Amit Shah. He is a firm believer in the policy that friendship can be made during peacetime, not during the war.
Meanwhile, senior BJD leaders have already started field work for the two by-polls and are in search of fresh candidates as the regional party is likely to face stiff opposition from the BJP. This is because people are slowly tilting towards BJP since Naveen has all along supported the NDA after the 2019 General Elections.