The Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janta Dal (BJD) on Friday joined the Opposition demand for the resignation of Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani. The fifth-largest party in the Lok Sabha, however, remained non-committal on allegations against external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
The BJD has often provided tactical support to the Bharatiya Janata Party government and stayed away from any Congress-led Opposition formation in Parliament. The shift in the BJD's stand indicates the support the NDA was enjoying from many regional parties is slowly waning.
"Smriti Irani's continuation as HRD minister is untenable in the wake of charges against her. Till the time the controversy over her educational qualification is not settled, she should lead the ministry," BJD's Lok Sabha leader Bhartruhari Mahtab told Hindustan Times.
The BJD has 20 MPs in the Lok Sabha and seven MPs in the Rajya Sabha.
"The issue of her educational qualification also involves Delhi University as she has mentioned that she studied under DU. How can she remain in a position of authority over DU when the institution is expected to clarify matters before the court?" said Mahtab.
The BJD echoed what Congress leader Ajay Maken had stated a few days ago. The Congress, too, had argued when the DU is involved in the case related to Irani, she can't preside over the ministry. "She may try to influence the DU," Maken had alleged.
The Odisha-based party, however, is yet to take a stand on Raje and Swaraj. "We will clarify our position at an appropriate time," Mahtab said.