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BJP, BJD reach breaking point

The 11-year-old alliance between the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Orissa is teetering on the brink of collapse. Soumyajit Pattnaik reports.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2009 02:26 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

The 11-year-old alliance between the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Orissa is teetering on the brink of collapse.

A senior BJD minister in the state told HT on Thursday that the party would formally end the alliance “within the next two to three days”.

He added that the BJD was likely to join the Third Front instead by sewing up a pre-poll alliance with the Left parties. Negotiations have already begun.

Officially, though, both sides maintain that the deadlocked negotiations over seat-sharing are not over. BJD secretary general Damodar Rout, however, said: “The ball is in the BJP’s court.”

Simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha polls will be held in Orissa on April 16 and 23.

The seat-sharing formula between the two parties, hammered out in 1998, saw the BJD contest 84 Assembly and 12 Lok Sabha seats, leaving 63 Assembly and nine Lok Sabha seats for the BJP.

Orissa has 147 Assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats.

The BJD now wants a new formula, under which the BJP will get fewer seats as its candidates have lost successive panchayat and municipal polls over the last few years.

The senior BJD minister told HT: “If we give the BJP 63 Assembly seats, then the Congress will certainly come back to power. We stand a better chance in a three-cornered contest. So breaking

the alliance is a risk worth taking.”

In a strong indication of the end of the alliance, two BJP MLAs, Dhaneswar Majhi and Sananda Marandi, sent their resignations to Orissa Assembly Speaker Kishore Mohanty on Thursday. Majhi, a two-time BJP MLA, told HT: “I’m joining the BJD.”

Said Rout: “So long as we are officially members of the alliance, it’s not possible to accept a member from a partner party. I will not comment on what will happen if the alliance breaks.” Off the record, BJD sources confirmed Majhi’s defection.

More BJP MLAs are expected to follow suit over the next few days.

Reacting to the possibility of a BJD-Left tie-up, CPI(M) state secretary Janardan Pati told HT: “If the BJD does part ways with the BJP, it will mark a new political beginning in the state.”

He, however, denied that talks had begun between the two sides on an alliance.

“We will take a decision on an alliance in a couple of days,” said Orissa chief minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik.