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‘B’ Team Slur

Bhubaneswar: Odisha politics is beset with utter confusion. The state’s three major political parties – the governing BJD and opposition BJP and Congress, have entered into a different zone where one is accusing the other of secret pacts. “B” Team slur is hurled against each other. This was evident when BJD suddenly dubbed the Congress in Odisha as a “B” team of BJP. This is for the first time that the regional party led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has made such an allegation. The BJP on its part remained silent and said that the Congress is a separate political party with contrasting ideology from the saffron outfit.

The Congress has shot back by claiming that the BJD and BJP are two sides of the same coin. Citing an instance, the 136-year-old party alleged that the BJD and BJP have recently consulted each other and cut the price of VAT on petrol and diesel. As soon as the BJP led NDA Government at Centre cut Rs 7 on the excise duty on petrol and diesel, BJD within some hours cut Rs 3 on VAT. This apart, the BJD had launched a state wide agitation against the price rise, and suddenly halted its stir. The BJD had hit the streets against the NDA Government after a gap of around three years over the price rise, pointed out OPCC Media Cell Chairperson Ganeswar Behera.

Congress Legislature Party Leader Narasingha Mishra often uses the term that “both sides of one coin” when he speaks on the relationship between the BJD and the BJP in the Odisha Assembly. Both the BJD and the BJP were in coalition government for nine years from 2000 to 2009 just to keep Congress out of power. Later they separated for ten years till the 2019 general elections with the equation changing after the poll results were announced. The BJD supported all the issues of BJP and even gifted a Rajya Sabha seat to the saffron party which indicates of a tacit understanding between the two. There should be no doubt that the BJD has tilted towards the right (BJP) and opposed Congress all along.

When Naveen entered into politics after the demise of Biju Patnaik in 1997, his first word against Congress was “corrupt”. After a brief lull, the BJD has again trained its guns at the Congress and accuses it of working at the behest of BJP. The BJD leaders made such reference when the opposition parties are fuming over the Kalahandi lady teacher kidnap and murder case. Both the parties have been demanding removal of Minister of State for Home for allegedly patronising the prime accused in the murder case.

Though the BJP and Congress have in the past fought against the BJD dispensation in Nayagarh girl child murder case and some other instances, the BJD had not made such an open statement. As the Kalahandi lady teacher killing case has reached the national capital and an otherwise dormant Congress suddenly became active and highlighting the matter, the BJD now sees that the country’s oldest party is fighting the battle of BJP against the BJD.

The regional party, in fact, is pushed to a corner over the Kalahandi case while all other parties have been making demands in one voice to sack Dibya Shankar Mishra from the council of ministers for his role. The matter became worse when Naveen allowed the said Minister to share dais with him at Bhawanipatna on 8 November. In the Kalahandi case, the BJD which ruled the state for 21 years at a stretch, has become isolated.

The BJD’s claim that Congress and BJP have joined hands is not accepted by the people keeping in view the BJD-BJP’s track record.  They have run the government for nine years. BJD was given a Rajya Sabha seat even after break of alliance, Naveen is supporting all the major Bills including CAA and others. In just one issue (lady teacher kidnap and murder), the BJD and BJP have differed. Therefore, the public doubts that the BJD’s statement is aimed at demoralizing the Congress which for the first time took up the issue in a big way. Even BJD alleged that BJP sponsored the Congress’s agitation including its hartal call.

The BJP had taken a specific stand when it made allegations that Congress was hand in gloves with the BJD. Immediately after elections, particularly the recent Pipili by-poll, the BJP alleged that Congress transferred its votes to BJD for which the BJP candidate lost the elections. BJP has all along taken stand against Congress since a long time.

There is sufficient reason for people to get confused over the statements of three parties. Actually, “who is a friend of whom?” is a million dollar question in Odisha politics. As such there are no permanent friends or foes in politics. But, keeping in view Naveen’s mindset, he has never ever tilted towards “corrupt” Congress even as he made occasional friendship with the “Communal” BJP.

Naveen’s anti-Congress stand was also evident from different occasions. When Congress led UPA was in power at the Centre, its Union Ministers during their visits to Odisha, had all along praised Naveen while the BJP Union Ministers did not hesitate to make personal attacks on Naveen calling him “burnt out transformer” and “inefficient” during elections. But, the BJD supremo forgot all innuendoes and went on supporting BJP on different issues. Now when the Congress and BJP made common cause over the Kalahandi issue, the BJD started attacking the oldest party as the “B” team of BJP.

This is high time the parties made clear their stand and stopped confusing people on their relationship with each other. The BJD must make it clear whether they are on the other side of the same coin along with the BJP. The Congress also must speak to the people whether they have any relationship with the BJP, may be at the local level. The BJP should clarify that they are alone with no link either the BJD or the Congress. Since BJP is emerging in the state, it is better for the saffron outfit to announce that it will not take any support from BJD.