Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The visuals of Biju Janata Dal and BJP candidates filing their nominations for the Rajya Sabha by-poll together in the state assembly have made many political observers conclude that bonhomie is back between the two parties which had parted ways after ruling the state in tandem for more than nine years.

But even if it is seen as a sign of the two parties coming closer it reflects nothing but sheer political opportunism because ideologically they are still poles apart. Chief minister and BJD supremo, Naveen Patnaik, who had dumped the BJP in 2009 in the wake of Kandhamal riots, would find the change in his stand towards the saffron party hard to justify.

Patnaik seems to have softened towards the BJP following his recent meeting with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Modi, it appears, dangled the carrot of generous central assistance to Odisha and Lok Sabha deputy speaker’s post for the BJD before Patnaik to seal the Rajya Sabha deal. The fig leaf for Patnaik in extending support to the candidature of BJP candidate, Ashwini Vaishnav was that he had served Odisha and was also the private secretary to former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee who is respected across the political spectrum.

But there is no denying that Patnaik has made a great sacrifice in backing the candidature of Vaishnav who goes to the Rajya Sabha on a seat which could easily have been BJD’s. This, in effect, means an increase in the strength of BJP at the cost of BJD.

So, one assumes that Patnaik would demand his pound of flesh for that. He should, in all probability, insist on Centre granting special category state status to Odisha and positively intervening on its behalf to resolve the Mahanadi and Polavaram disputes in its favour. None of this is going to be easy.

While Modi dispensation has been extremely reluctant to accord special status to states, insisting instead on special packages, Polavaram dispute would be hard to resolve because it involves the interest of Andhra Pradesh whose chief minister, Jagan Mohan Reddy has been friendly towards the NDA and whose support Modi requires as much as he needs Naveen.

As for the Mahanadi dispute the Centre was openly partisan in the matter, favouring Chhatisgarh when BJP government was in power in that state. Now that a Congress government is in power in Chhatisgarh and the matter is before a tribunal, which has asked both the states to settle the issue amicably, one wonders what the role of Centre would be.

Given this backdrop one may feel tempted to believe critics of Patnaik who have argued that the fear of CBI, which is probing the chit fund scam, has led the chief minister to kowtow before the Prime Minister and support BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha.

It is significant to note that Patnaik, like he had done in the past, continues to maintain a safe distance from the state BJP leaders who are watching the renewed friendship between the chief minister and their central leaders with a sense of chagrin. After all only about a month ago they had declared him as their worst possible enemy with whom there could never be any compromise. But now they appear to have little choice in the matter.

(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.)