Pradeep Singh

Rumours of a possible BJP-BJD alliance ahead of the upcoming general elections have taken centre stage in Odisha politics. Speculations are rife that an announcement of the Biju Janata Dal joining the NDA fold will be made on March 5. Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Odisha for the second time this year on March 5.

However, both the BJD and the BJP leaders are dodging questions on these alliance rumours. On the other hand, Congress, which recently organised a 'marriage' ceremony of the BJP and the BJD, throwing metaphorical confetti on the alleged secret understanding between them, seems quite confident of an alliance and eagerly waiting to corner both the parties.

On being asked about a possible alliance, on Thursday, Odisha BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma avoided a direct answer but said, “A small party always joins a larger party for survival while for a big party like the BJP, an alliance means expansion. Fear of survival always takes a toll on small parties. If the BJD is really considering an alliance with the BJP, the party which is its competitor and immediate successor in Odisha, one can better guess their current situation.”

Meanwhile, some BJP leaders, citing Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s past comment on a possible BJP-BJD alliance, alleged that the BJD has spread the false narrative as many leaders and workers of the ruling party are joining the BJP ahead of the 2024 elections.

What Had The Assam CM Said On BJP & BJD Being ONE?

In an exclusive interview with OTV in January this year, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that misinformation is being spread that BJD and BJP are one in Delhi and the saffron party needs to come out of it. “It is wrong as Odisha is BJP’s incomplete mission. To serve Odisha is a long-standing dream of the BJP and we want to achieve it,” said Sarma.

“It is BJD’s propaganda that in Delhi we (BJP) are together. We are one on some issues and different on other issues.  The issue of (BJP) and BJD are not one and it can very well be gauged from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not here for the inauguration of the Puri Srimandir Heritage Corridor project. If BJP-BJD were one, then people would have seen both CM Naveen Patnaik and Prime Minister Narendra Modi together during the inauguration of the project here,” said Sarma.

What Might Have Led BJP To Accuse BJD Of Creating False Narrative?

As alleged by the BJP, the BJD has created the ‘false narrative to confuse and stop the dissident ruling party leaders from considering the saffron party as an option ahead of the 2024 elections as it (BJD) is already grappling with several internal problems’.

1. BJD’s Problem of Surplus-Dissidents-Exodus: 
The BJD recently revealed that it has received more than 10,000 applications for party tickets for the 2024 general elections. Suspended BJD leaders like Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi and Chilika MLA Prashant Jagdev have already joined the BJP while many leaders may follow suit if denied BJD ticket. Besides, as per BJP’s claims, many BJD leaders are in touch and ready to join the party.

2. Acute Factionalism: 
Apart from the surplus issue, alleged infighting in the party has also become an issue for the BJD. A case in point is the recent reports of two senior leaders of the party Sanjay Dasburma and Uma Samantray staking claim to contest from Satyabadi Assembly constituency in the ensuing polls.

3. Brewing Resentment and Feeling of Being Neglected: 
Many BJD leaders are workers are believed to be not happy with the current working structure developed in the party in the last couple of years. While many workers have the feeling of being left out by their elected representatives, several leaders feel neglected by the top brass. “For every other work, be it for people’s welfare, in our areas, we have to take permission from the 'leader of the new group' at Naveen Niwas or his people as if we don’t have any respect or rights,” rued a Ganjam BJD leader on the condition of anonymity. It is worth mentioning that the BJP had earlier claimed that even though many BJD leaders are not happy, they cannot raise their voices fearing a no to ticket or their candidacy in the upcoming election.

4. New vs Old: 
Rumours are making rounds that following the whirlwind tours of VK Pandian across Odisha and his subsequent joining of the BJD, a cold war is going on between the young brigade and the old or the ardent followers of Biju Babu over several issues. However, BJD has always denied any such differences.

On the contrary, it is believed that the BJP state unit has convinced the top brass of the party that it is doing well in the state and may win around 12-15 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP also believes that the alleged infighting in the BJD and anti-incumbency will help them win more Assembly seats and they may dethrone the Naveen Patnaik government in the upcoming general elections.