Vikash Sharma

Has there been a change in the stance of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD)? Such speculations are rife following the attacks made by BJD on BJP's state unit while going soft while dealing with the Centre. During the inauguration of the Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat Express train service on Thursday, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik heaped praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi further fuelling such speculations.

Not only this, but Patnaik also invited Narendra Modi to inaugurate the Puri International Airport, which is expected to be ready in 3-4 years of time, hinting that the Odisha CM expects Modi to retain power in 2024 as well. There is also discussion in the power corridor from the state to the Centre over the visible changes in BJD’s ‘equidistance policy’.

Naveen Patnaik promptly cleared the air surrounding the meeting with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar recently. Patnaik categorically stated that no discussion regarding any alliance was held. A day after his meeting with Nitish Kumar, Patnaik flew to Delhi and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and cleared that BJD is not with the third front.

However, after winning the Jharsuguda bypoll, CM Naveen took a jibe at the double-engine remark of the BJP. The Odisha unit of the BJP, on the other hand, has been attacking the CM as well as the 5T secretary.

The BJD, too, has been countering such attacks. However, the question remains why such double standards? It is being said that BJD’s attempts to praise PM Modi is to weaken the attacks by the State BJP.

“There is no confusion in BJD. CM had met PM on airport matter and there is a difference in ideologies but all need to work together on development agenda,” said BJD leader, Debi Prasad Mishra.

BJP MP, Jual Oram said, “They (BJD) will change their strategy to save themselves and the party. But we will work on countering their strategy. One thing is sure that there will be no coalition with the BJD and we are ready to fight the elections alone.”

The Congress has alleged that the BJD-BJP fight is just an eyewash and an attempt to mislead people. “There is discussion among the public that CM met PM to give clarification that they are not with the third front. BJD is with the BJP at the Centre and fighting with the state unit here. Both were in coalition from 2000 to 2009 and it is only to mislead people,” said PCC President, Sarat Patnaik.

Many have questioned the stance of the BJD ahead of the 2024 polls. But is there any pressure on BJD or it is playing a safe game in the name of equidistance policy?

Political experts say that though BJD is saying about being equidistant from BJP and Congress, in reality, it is with the saffron party.

“BJD is with the Central BJP leadership and it is indulging in mudslinging with state BJP leaders in view of elections. State BJP is losing for this,” said senior journalist, K Ravi.

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