Sandeep Sahu

Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fulsome praise for Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Parliament yesterday for setting an example of ‘cooperative federalism’, an occasion for celebration or a cause for embarrassment for the ruling BJD? Going by the reaction of BJD parliamentary party leader Prasanna Acharya, the ruling party clearly believes it’s a pat on its back and something to crow about – and an embarrassment for the BJP.

But is that really the case? Viewed from another angle, the BJD should actually be embarrassed about it since it only helps buttress the widely held impression that the BJD and BJP are actually ‘friends’ rather than adversaries. For all its cries of ‘central neglect’, the ruling party in Odisha has not been able to shake off the public impression that it has a secret understanding with the ruling party at the Centre. The fulminations of BJD members in Parliament over issues like the uptake of parboiled rice, houses under PMAY and so on in the recent past have been seen for what they are: political rhetoric ahead of the panchayat elections.

It’s a template that the BJD has followed – with great success, one must say - since the UPA days: cry ‘central neglect’ and aim barbs at the ruling party at the Centre when elections are around the corner and do a complete turn-around and enter into a cozy relationship with the same party as soon as the polls are over. The strategy has been further finetuned since the advent of the NDA – and Narendra Modi - in 2014 to an extent where the BJD is now seen as the ‘most dependable ally’ of the NDA, even more reliable than some of the alliance partners! After going hammer and tongs against the BJP in the run up to the 2019 elections, it has backed the NDA government on almost every issue - even on highly emotive and divisive issues like the NRC and CAA – much to the chagrin of opposition parties. Even on the contentious farm laws, now repealed, its opposition was not unqualified.

It is important to note what the Prime Minister praised Naveen for: working ‘shoulder to shoulder’ on reforms in the coal and mining sectors. As anyone who has followed developments in these two sectors knows, the interests of the two sides converge on these two sectors and hence working in tandem with each other makes eminent sense for both of them. Those who have a problem with this view need to remember that the Modi government has been sitting on the Shah Commission recommendation for a CBI inquiry into the mega mining scam in Odisha for over seven years now. Given the central probe agency’s embarrassing record in its probe into the chit fund scam, it is, of course, entirely possible that a probe into the mining scam would have been similarly derailed. But there is no denying the fact that the mere institution of a CBI probe would have caused embarrassment for the BJD, more so if the probe was monitored by the apex court.

If Modi’s praise for Naveen is an embarrassment for the BJD, it is an even bigger embarrassment for the BJP. It takes the wind out of the sails of the party, which has gone on the offensive against the BJD government in the build up to the panchayat elections. No one is really fooled by BJP general secretary Golak Mohapatra’s labored attempt to explain away the PM’s praise as an act of ‘statesmanship’. The PM’s pat on the back for Naveen could not have come at a worse time for the BJP. It can continue railing against Naveen, his party and his government till the cows come home. But what happened in Parliament yesterday has certainly taken the sting out of its rhetoric.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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