All Is Not Quite Well In BJD
The more the BJD tries to hide it, the more it comes out: all is not quite well in the ruling party. Days after party supremo Naveen Patnaik cautioned his MPs at a meeting in Delhi not to go public with their views, senior BJD leader and the party’s parliamentary party leader Bhartruhari Mahatab has done the exact opposite by writing an article in Nirvay, a daily Odia tabloid, where he has accused his own party of overreacting to the BJP’s aggressive posturing about winning the next election, thereby ‘proving its weakness’.
Predictably, the BJD has been quick to distance itself from Mahatab’s claim, dubbing it ‘his personal opinion’ and affirming that all is indeed well in the party. But there is no mistaking the fissures within the party. For one thing, Mahatab is not one of those voluble and excitable leaders prone to making thoughtless, outrageous and provocative statements. For another, as the leader of the BJD parliamentary party, he could not have been unaware of the interpretations that his article would be open to – more so because it was not an off-the-cuff comment made before a TV camera in the ‘heat of the moment’, but a newspaper article which must have been preceded by some thought and careful deliberation. More ominously for the BJD, he has made it clear that this is only the first part of the write up which he plans to follow up with at least one more piece.
That the article came even after Naveen Patnaik asked party leaders to air their grievances within the party forum and not to go public points to two things. First, the writ of the BJD supremo does not run in the party anymore which, in itself, should be a major cause of concern not just for the party chief but for the party as a whole. Second, the party forum that Naveen wants his men to air their grievances in simply does not exist, forcing them to go public with their views.
This is the second time in the last few months that Mahatab has been in the news for the wrong reason. The last time, he had stirred a hornet’s nest saying a weakened Congress is not an ‘untouchable’ anymore. He was duly served a show cause notice for this act of indiscretion by the party, which has not budged an inch from its ‘equi-distant to both BJP and Congress’ line – at least not officially – yet. But no knows for sure if he has taken the trouble of responding to the notice. The fact that no action has been taken against him, however, suggests that he had the supremo’s blessings in saying what he said or his of indiscretion has been condoned. Either way, it has strengthened the suspicion that Congress is not anathema for the BJD, which is a shadow of the powerhouse it was at the time of the 2014 elections – and for quite some time even after that.
There are reasons to believe that even as it keeps its doors open for some kind of an understanding with a beleaguered Congress, the BJD hasn’t shut its doors completely on a possible revival of its alliance with the BJP. Naveen himself has fuelled wild speculation on this score by choosing to meet the ageing and ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a time when the BJP, the party he had snubbed and unilaterally shown the door to in 2009, has launched a no-holds-barred attack against his party and government. The claims made by party spokespersons that it was just a ‘courtesy call’ to the ailing Prime Minister is hard to swallow because he has not bothered to enquire about Vajpayee, who has been ailing for quite some time now, even once during his numerous visits to the national capital in the last eight years. Given the bitter relationship between the two parties, talk of a BJD-BJP certainly appears rather fanciful at this juncture. But the claim that Naveen met Vajpayee just to enquire about his health and wish him a long life simply does not wash.
Ever the inscrutable leader, Naveen is acting true to form in keeping everyone guessing about his next move. But the one thing that even he cannot hide anymore is this: he is unsure about winning on his own in 2014.