Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: There now seems to be a pattern to it that is beginning to look familiar. The Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) support for the Inter-State River Water Disputes Bill, 2019 that was passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday comes as no surprise to political observers who have been watching the growing closeness between Patnaik and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi eversince the results of the last Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the state were announced.

In fact, Modi had begun courting Patnaik, who has become the chief minister of Odisha for the fifth time in a row, even before the results became known. After undertaking an aerial survey of the areas hit by cyclone Fani in the state in the first week of May he had praised the chief minister for the massive evacuation drive carried out by his government before the gale struck the coast. He had also announced an additional assistance of Rs.1000 crore for relief work.

The goodwill generated by the move was carried forward when the two leaders met in Delhi after the announcement of election results. Apart from seeking generous assistance from the Centre for the post-cyclone reconstruction work Patnaik is believed to have discussed with the Prime Minister Odisha’s outstanding demands like the grant of special category status to the state.

The chief minister has been exceptionally warm towards Modi since that meeting in New Delhi despite certain embarrassing developments like union environment ministry’s grant of a two-year extension for work on the Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh which Odisha has been opposing tooth and nail. There was more disappointment in store for the state. Soon after the Polavaram blow union minister of state for finance, Anurag Thakur told the Lok Sabha in reply to a question that there was no proposal under consideration for the grant of special category status to Odisha.

Still the BJD has been extremely generous towards the BJP. First it extended support to the Rajya Sabha candidature of BJP leader and former IAS officer, Ashwini Vaishnav and then backed the controversial triple talaq and RTI amendment bills in the parliament. Its support for the Inter-State River Water Disputes Bill, 2019 is the latest example the growing bonhomie between the two sides which has triggered speculations about a possible trade-off.

Certain political compulsions of Patnaik are quite obvious. For example the chief minister knows only too well that he needs a friendly Centre in order to keep the state’s finances on an even keel. Given the increasing loan burden of the state it would find it well nigh impossible to undertake the massive reconstruction work in the wake of cyclone Fani without Modi government’s generous financial support. He also needs to remain on the right side of Modi to keep some of his key welfare schemes going.

Speculation has also been rife about Patnaik playing upto Modi for the fear of CBI probe into the chit fund scam being accelerated. Considering that the central agency had arrested some of his party leaders in connection with the scandal he has reasons for being wary on this front. But that certainly is not the only reason for the chief minister cozying upto Modi. There is more to it but we may have to wait a little longer to know the whole truth.

(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.)