The aftershocks of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s seismic political shift, as his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) snapped its 11-year-old alliance with the BJP, reverberated well beyond the borders of Orissa on Sunday, with Third Front leaders applauding the move and BJP leaders screaming betrayal.
Delighted Left party leaders tacitly acknowledged that Patnaik had taken them into confidence before making his decisive move. CPM politburo member, Sitaram Yechury, who flew down to Bhubaneswar on Sunday, admitted he had camped there last week as well. “I was in touch with him (Patnaik),” he said.
“Naveen’s father, the late Biju Patnaik, was an inspiration for the third alternative at the center,” Yechury added. “I reminded Naveen that Bijuji’s birthday falls on March 6,
and this was the best birthday tribute to his father that he could give.”
CPM general secretary Prakash Karat was equally upbeat. “We had told the BJD during the Kandhamal riots that the BJP was an untenable ally,” he said.
Janata Dal(S) leader and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, who is playing a pivotal role in bringing together the Third Front, was equally forthright. “I knew that a thoroughly secular gentleman-politician like your good self could never be comfortable with such anti-social, anti-minorities fascist forces,” he informed Patnaik.
The target of all their attacks, the BJP, however, rallied quickly after the initial shock.
Said BJP president Rajnath Singh: “The alliance lasted for 11 years. It is really unfortunate that this happened.” But others in the party were unwilling to lose heart. “Though the parting was painful because the manner in which Patnaik announced it, our cadres are jubilant,” said spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad. “The party will rebuild itself all over Orissa again as an anti-Congress front, without having to play the second fiddle to the BJD.”
The BJP specifically blamed two BJD MPs, Peary Mohan Mohapatra and Jay Panda, who they maintained, had grown very close to Rahul Gandhi and worked at misleading Patnaik.
Already the BJP is revising its Orissa plans. It will now contest all the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 147 assembly seats on its own, with a single campaign theme – that Naveen Patnaik was a betrayer. It intends to unleash Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in a major way in the state, with which it hopes to enthuse its cadres to put up a good fight.
“All is not lost. We got 19 per cent of the votes last time, against the BJD’s 32 per cent and the Congress 34 per cent,” said a senior BJP leader. “Going by that percentage we can win seven Lok Sabha seats and 30-35 assembly seats. Let us how either the Congress or the BJD forms a government on its own.”