Friends turn foes in the new House - Hindustan Times
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Friends turn foes in the new House

ByHT Editorial
Jun 25, 2024 09:19 PM IST

BJD, after losing ground to BJP in Odisha, faces challenge in establishing itself as an effective opposition as regional parties aligned with BJP see erosion in their bases.

Naveen Patnaik’s call to the MPs of his party, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), to act as an effective Opposition in the Rajya Sabha marks a moment of reckoning. In the recently concluded general and state elections in Odisha, the BJD lost office in Bhubaneswar to the BJP and failed to win a single Lok Sabha constituency. The BJD, though not a constituent of the NDA, backed many of the BJP’s contentious laws in Parliament during 2014-24, and recently, facilitated the re-election of the railway minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw to the Rajya Sabha from Odisha. This closeness seems to have undermined the BJD’s independent standing as a political outfit and hurt its prospects in what was mostly a direct contest with the BJP. That and anti-incumbency of a quarter century pulled down the BJD and the electorate chose to back the BJP directly rather than route support through the regional outfit. It will not be easy for the BJD to now establish its credentials as an Opposition voice.

**EDS: IMAGE VIA PMO** Bhubaneswar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by former Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik during the swearing-in ceremony of new Odisha government, in Bhubaneswar, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI06_12_2024_000281B) (PTI)
**EDS: IMAGE VIA PMO** Bhubaneswar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by former Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik during the swearing-in ceremony of new Odisha government, in Bhubaneswar, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI06_12_2024_000281B) (PTI)

The BJD’s predicament is not unique. Many regional parties that aligned with the BJP have seen their bases eroded or lost electoral primacy to the latter in their strongholds. The experiences of the Shiv Sena, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Janata Dal (Secular), Akali Dal, and AIADMK illustrate this trajectory. The AGP, for instance, has lost not just its electoral base but also its plank of Assamese exceptionalism to the BJP, once its junior ally. Similarly, the regionalist BJD could not offer a counter to the BJP’s campaign over Odia asmita (pride) that focussed on the Tamil origins of VK Pandian, the bureaucrat-turned-advisor to Patnaik. The Sena faced the threat of its base being subsumed within the larger rubric of Hindutva, once its ethnic identity plank lost traction. The AIADMK and the Akali Dal broke ranks with the BJP after they realised that the alliance benefited the latter and cost them their social base but remain in political wilderness.

This, interestingly, is in contrast to the parties that have allied with the Congress: The Congress’s allies tend to retain their base or expand under the umbrella provided by the former. This may well be because the political character of the BJP and the Congress are very different: The former is a unitarian outfit with a powerful ideological core whereas the latter’s federalist character allowed multiple groups and voices to flourish. More importantly, the BJP has been on the ascent whereas the 140-year-old Grand Old Party is past its peak. However, the fractured verdict of the 2024 general elections may force many parties to reset their political preferences. The BJD decision may well be a harbinger of things to come.

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