By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) consistent support for the BJP-led NDA government in the last few months has triggered all kinds of speculations. While some analysts have gone to the extent of suggesting that this could be a prelude to the revival of BJD-BJP alliance in the state others have hinted at the possibility of a deal between chief minister and BJD supremo, Naveen Patnaik and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
There is no denying that BJD’s backing of NDA on a string of controversial issues including the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which is the latest in the list, has seriously diluted Patnaik’s avowed policy of maintaining equidistance from BJP and the Congress. His party seems to be meekly and obediently following the Modi-led government.
Political analysts cannot be faulted for thinking that Patnaik has decided to make some compromises because he needs a friendly Centre to pull the state out of a difficult economic situation. But if there is a quid pro quo it is so far visible only in the form of financial assistance that the state has received from the Centre for rehabilitation and restoration work in the areas hit by cyclone Fani and the funds sanctioned to Odisha for compensatory afforestation under CAMPA.
However, Patnaik has not been able to extract any major concessions from the Centre on important issues like the Polavaram dispute or special category state status for Odisha. Both the issues have been contentious and generated a lot of heat in the state. They were also played up by the chief minister during his campaign for his party in the last elections. The party got handsome votes but the issues are far from settled.
Replying to a question by a BJD member in the Lok Sabha last July union minister of state for finance, Anurag Thaklur said there was no proposal under the consideration of the central government for the grant of special category status to Odisha and allowing it a sharing pattern in the ratio of 90:10 for centrally sponsored schemes at par with North-Eastern and Himalayan States.
This means that the most important demand of Odisha from the Centre on which the BJD has held several rallies and demonstrations still remains unfulfilled. What is significant is that despite this snub from the Centre the party has refrained from criticising the Modi regime on this issue.
Equally significantly the Polavaram multi-purpose project, which has been a major bone of contention between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, was granted a two-year work extension by the union environment ministry overlooking the objections of Naveen Patnaik government. Even the letter written by Patnaik to the Prime Minister seeking stoppage of project work till his government’s concerns on the issue were addressed has failed to produce any desirable results. The stalemate over Polavaram continues.
The failure of Patnaik to convince the Centre to act in favour of Odisha on these two issues could have a political fall-out for BJD, the most successful regional party in the history of the state. The chief minister should be careful about extending support to Modi government without ensuring commensurate benefits to the state. If it has to be a bargain it should be a good bargain.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are 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)