When opposition makes friendship with governing party, it is like horse making friendship with grass. Grass continues to grow, putting at stake the survival of the horse. A similar situation has been created in Odisha Politics with the Opposition BJP entering into a cordial relationship with the Governing BJD.
Coming straight to the point, the people of Odisha elevated BJP to the Number II position in the state and were expecting an aggressive opposition would be a befitting match for the towering BJD led by Naveen Patnaik.
The grand old Congress party was relegated to a poor third position with expectation that the saffron brigade would be a perfect foil to challenge the regional political behemoth.
People's trust was evident during the polls when they elected eight BJP candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats, BJD got 12 seats, eight less than its previous (2014) tally of 20 seats. Congress in 2019 polls could manage to get just one Lok Sabha seat.
This is not all, despite their support to Naveen Patnaik’s BJD in the State Assembly elections, people voted in large numbers to BJP candidates due to which it got 23 seats while Congress ended up in the single digit nine assembly seats. The BJP’s average polling percentage was about 40 per cent.
Recently, Saffron Stalwart and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in a virtual rally, said that about one crore Odisha voters support the party and voted in favour of lotus symbol. The fact remains that people voted BJP mostly for its opposition role.
People had reckoned that Congress could not take on BJD due to infighting, making BJP the right choice for a vigilant opposition in Odisha.
Mr.Shah who called upon the party’s rank and file to make Odisha as the party’s strongest fort, however, did not consider that it is people who actually strengthened the saffron party to emerge as a strong opposition rather than for indulging in Naveen appeasement policy, feel observers. The BJP workers everywhere are frustrated and are gradually losing their fighting spirit with senior leaders in the State and National levels getting closer to Naveen.
“The close proximity between Naveen and BJP will certainly push the BJP away from the people,” feel a political analyst adding that after 20 years of BJD regime Odisha needs a strong opposition and not the one which joins voice with everything Naveen says. Over last one year BJP has miserably failed in its role as an opposition, said a veteran political observer.
Now BJP is no more a rival of the BJD and the regional outfit is often dubbed as a “friend in need” for the BJP. People have seen it on many occasions, most recent being the change of approach of BJP’s Odisha face Dharmendra Pradhan.
The Union Minister, who used to start attacking the BJD Government as soon as he landed in Bhubaneswar airport, has slowly turned as ‘Most Favorite’ of Naveen. For example, a few years ago the Union Minister had repeatedly approached State Bureaucracy for at least a meeting for Paradip Project of Indian Oil but was denied time and again. Now both Chief Minister and Union Minister are lunching the project jointly.
A senior Mandarin said Mr.Pradhan is now treated as “Top Heavyweight” and the Union Minister has held undertaken several review meetings attended by who’s who in Odisha administration. It is a fact that Mr.Pradhan is calling the shots in the reviews of Government programs and schemes, and the kind of acceptance now he enjoys under the changed circumstances, leaves no doubt over the bonhomie between the ruling and the opposition party.
While Pradhan gets all respect and salutation, projects in Odisha are fast tracked and investment made by union government is fructifying in a big way. Be it Indian Oil Project or Talcher Fertilizer, all major projects are on fast track, all thanks to the geniality between Mr.Patnaik and Mr.Pradhan.
However, political circles see this as a ploy since the intelligent Naveen Patnaik never misses a chance to weaken the opposition for the continuity of his rule.
Everybody in Odisha politics knows it for granted that Naveen is BJD. Therefore, friendship with BJD Supremo is likely to adversely affect the saffron party.
BJD preferred to remain silent even as the Union Government continued to increase the price of petrol and diesel by more than Rs 8 in a span of only 20 days. The BJD has also stopped its anti-Centre bashing strategy. Instead, BJD praises the
Union Government often without ever raising the state's most important issues like special category status and inadequate funding for sectors. Even the BJD has shown its friendship with BJP by gifting away a Rajya Sabha seat. This has demoralized the BJD insiders and they admit that this has resulted in the party losing its regional flavor.
However, everybody in BJD knows that with a single call from Naveen, all the BJD men will fall in line and people will continue to bless the party.
But that is not the case in BJP. The saffron party is a cadre based organization. Once its rank-and-file is demoralized, the party will not be able raise its head and it may not take long time to return to its pre-2019 poll status.
Insiders in BJP strongly feel that this is high time for the saffron party leaders, both in the centre and state, to chalk out clear cut strategy for dealing with BJD and Naveen Patnaik.
BJP has to take a clear stand, whether to become a true opposition party as per the expectation of the people of Odisha or to make friendship with BJD for certain gains. Blow Hot and Blow Cold approach will never benefit the BJP. The choice is very limited for it: it cannot be both a friend and a foe.
In this saga, however, one thing is clear. While BJP is losing its teeth as opposition; BJD is gaining more grounds and Odisha has benefitted with more and more central projects and funding, thanks to a diplomatic way of handling things by Naveen Patnaik.