ADVANI YATRA: NEWS ANALYSIS By Soumyajit Pattnaik

BJP patriarch L.K. Advani’s visit to Orissa has left the state party leaders squirming and fuming at the sudden turn of events which have rekindled hopes of a possible alliance between BJD and BJP. Throughout his two-day road journey in Orissa, Advani launched a blistering attack against the UPA Government at the Centre, but remained completely tightlipped on the alleged scams involving the BJD Government in the state. While the state BJP leaders have unremittingly fired salvoes at Naveen Patnaik on issues ranging from the alleged mining scam to the mismanagement of Hirakud dam, Advani jettisoned the belligerent posture adopted by the state party leaders vis-a-vis Naveen Patnaik. Advani, while addressing a press conference in Sambalpur, even did not rule out a tie-up with the BJD in future.

Advani of course hastened to add that the relationship between the parties in Orissa was “tense” and he described the question about a possible electoral tie-up as “speculative”. Advani’s silence on governance issues in Orissa has ruffled many feathers within the BJP. Red-faced BJP leaders are at a loss for words to explain why Advani preferred to mollycoddle the BJD after completely ignoring the advice of his party leaders in Orissa. The visit which was expected to chart a new course for the BJP has become politically embarrassing for the state BJP leaders. The state BJP leaders have to explain to the cadres as well as to the electorate why Advani had to hold his fire against the BJD government and why he chose to extend an olive branch to Naveen by not ruling out a possible alliance in future completely.

Is a new alliance in the offing between the BJD and BJP? Advani has made the first move and now, it will be the turn of Naveen to respond. Will he hold the hands of BJP again especially after the acrimonious parting of ways in 2009? The BJP had then described Naveen’s move as “treachery”. Naveen cited Kandhamal riots as the reason to end the 11-year-old alliance with the BJP in 2009. Would he now make a volte face and embrace the BJP again? Politics is the art of the possible and the broken marriage can again be repaired again if the interests of both parties will converge again.

There are hard political realities staring both parties at this juncture. For the BJP, there is the desperate need to rope in as many allies as possible in the run-up to the 2014 polls. Regional allies can dictate terms in 2014 polls and Advani may be in search of winning back old allies who severed ties with the BJP in the past. In his third term now, the going is getting tough for Naveen as anti-incumbency may pose problems for the BJD’s bid for an improbable consecutive fourth term in office. An alliance with BJP may brighten the party’s chances to come back to power again. Both sides have their compulsions to rework the alliance again.