Bhubaneswar: Even though the ruling-BJD president and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has been meeting various national leaders who are trying to create a federal front to counter the saffron surge, when it comes to his own role in such an arrangement, the former seems to be holding his cards close to his chest. It is believed the party sees more gains in the upcoming 2019 general elections in maintaining equidistant-from-others policy.
Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao is scheduled to visit Odisha in May. Rao recently met West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and the former prime minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) chief H D Deve Gowda. However, when CM Naveen was asked about the meeting with his Telangana counterpart, he was quick to refute - “There will be no discussion on a federal front or anything to do with politics.”
Political observers question -is such a stance by Naveen towards a federal front because of the perceived fear of drawing the ire of the central government? or is the BJD not playing its cards because no clarity has emerged at the national level on the contours of a federal front?
"Naveen Babu has a secret understanding with the PM since quite some time. It exists till now. Naveen babu is scared of the BJP because of the chit fund scam as it fears of a CBI probe," said senior Congress leader Taraprasad Bahinipati.
"Till the time there is no formal decision, I have nothing to say on this. As the Congress has not helped us and the BJP opposed us even more, we will maintain equidistance," BJD vice president, Surya Narayan Patro said.
Discussions about a 'secret understanding' between the BJD and the BJP gained traction after Naveen's meeting with Modi during the presentation of the photo biography of Biju Patnaik by the former to the latter. However, after the results of Bijepur bypoll and Atabira and Hindol civic body elections, experts believe that the political equation in the State has changed considerably. Following BJP's defeat in these elections, the federal front equation also depends on the stance the BJP-led central government takes towards the ruling-BJD in state, opined experts.
"The government in Odisha is trapped in chit fund and mining scams which is why it is not confronting the Centre directly and will not do in future as well," Union minister Jual Oram said.
With the political landscape in Odisha changing swiftly as the 2019 elections draw near, all eyes will also be on the fate of the federal front.