In Naveen support to NDA, his BJD the big loser, says Congress

BJD defended the move saying their support for Harivansh Narayan Singh was in fact for Janata Dal (United).

india Updated: Aug 09, 2018 23:23 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Naveen Patnaik,Congress,BJD
Naveen Patnaik extended his supported to the NDA candidate after Amit Shah and PM Modi called him seeking support. (HT Photo)

Biju Janata Dal (BJD)’s support for National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s Rajya Sabha deputy chairman candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh has triggered speculation about Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik-led party’s possible alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

This comes even as the BJP has been fancying its chances in Odisha after increasing its vote share in the 2017 panchayat polls to 32% from 15% five years earlier. It finished second after the BJD in terms of seats. Congress was third.

The performance had encouraged BJP chief Amit Shah to set a target of winning 120 of the 147 assembly seats in Odisha next year.

Dissident BJP leader Bijoy Mahapatra said BJD’s support would confuse BJP cadres and voters. “The exercise may have helped the NDA win a post, but the biggest gainer is Naveen, whose stature as a kingmaker has gone several notches up. This also indicates that there may be a possible tie-up between BJD and BJP after the polls.”

“This is how electoral politics works and the BJP has probably realised that it may need the BJD after the polls,” said Bhubaneswar-based retired political science professor Surya Mishra.

Shah has repeatedly targeted Patnaik. He called the four-time chief minister a “burnt-out transformer” while describing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “powerhouse” last year.

He later described Patnaik as a leader “bereft of ideas”. Patnaik has since introduced a slew of schemes and invoked Odia pride to maintain his position.

BJD’s support came after Modi and Shah called Patnaik seeking his support.

It came even as the BJD had so far maintained a distance from the BJP-led NDA. It helped Singh get 125 votes while taking the sting out of BJP’s campaign against Naveen Patnaik.

BJD defended the move saying their support for Singh was in fact for Janata Dal (United).

Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik said the BJD’s support for the NDA candidate was unsurprising, “ It is a deal to stop the CBI from exposing the BJD’s misdeeds.” He said the BJD’s vote for Singh will help the Congress as the people have realised that the BJD and the BJP are two sides of the same coin.

A BJP leader credited the BJP central leaders’ “brilliant floor management” for BJD’s support while acknowledging its electoral repercussions.

“…the BJD had no option but to support the NDA. But the wound of 2009 (when BJD ended its nine-year alliance with the BJP) is still fresh. I do not think this vote would have any bearing on the next year’s polls,” said BJP national secretary Suresh Pujari.

Former BJD leader and political commentator Panchanan Kanungo said the development may harm both BJD and BJP’s poll prospects.

“But it would be worth watching if the Congress can gain from this. The BJP would have been the natural beneficiary of the anti-incumbency situation”.

First Published: Aug 09, 2018 23:02 IST