Former MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda joins BJP

New Delhi: Speculations and presumptions on Baijayant Jay Panda’s political course of action were put to rest today after the former Parliamentarian joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at party headquarters in New Delhi. Panda joined the BJP in presence of Union Ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Jual Oram, party’s Odisha in-charge Arun Singh, BJP state president Basant Panda and other senior leaders of the saffron party.

After joining the national party, the former Kendrapara MP met party’s national president Amit Shah. Welcoming Jay Panda to the party, Pradhan took to Twitter and wrote: “I welcome my friend, Shri Baijayant Jay Panda into the BJP family. His popularity and connect with the Odia youth will further strengthen the surge of BJP in Odisha.”

Commenting on Jay Panda’s decision to join the saffron party, BJD spokesperson Arun Sahoo said “It was his personal decision to join the party. Only future will tell how far the step is justified.”

All India Congress Committee Secretary Sarat Rout said, “There was a lack of political maturity in BJP which is why members of the national party wanted Jay Panda to join them.”

After Jay Panda joined BJP, Odisha Law Minister Pratap Jena said, “Everyone knows about his involvement in money laundering activities and black money of him stashed in Bahamas. For his own safety as well as the business empire, he joined the BJP. There will be no impact on BJD.”

Countering the allegations, Jay Panda said, “These are false allegations. In the past also I have denied the charges. He (Jena) has every right to present his views. I believe people of the State will give their views on the issue in coming days.”

With general elections round the corner, the former Parliamentarian was earlier quoted saying that he was willing to join hands with anybody ‘committed to tackling the severe problems that Odisha now faces’. He had also stated that it is irrelevant whether he joins a political party or forms a new one rather it is more important to fight against various issues plaguing his State.

Jay Panda, one of the founding members of the ruling-BJD, had tendered his resignation from the party on May 28 last year. He was repeatedly harassed and attacked but the failure of CM Naveen Patnaik and other BJD leaders to attend his father’s funeral was the final nail in the coffin and Panda decided to disassociate from the party.

Although things have been going from bad to worse for the past four years, it has plumbed the absolute depths of inhumanity when neither you (Naveen Patnaik) or anyone from the BJD turned up to pay their last respects to my father Dr Bansidhar Panda, who as everyone knows was a very close friend, supporter, and associate of Biju uncle for many decades. In stark contrast, thousands of well wishers came to pay last respects, including senior leaders of all other political parties.

— Baijayant Panda in his resignation letter to Naveen.

Since then, political pundits always discussed about the ramifications that Panda’s resignation will have on Odisha’s political landscape. They had also expressed that his resignation was a setback for the ruling BJD ahead of the 2019 elections as he is an ‘asset’ for his commitment towards the development of Odisha as well his own parliamentary constituency.

Though a few critics had predicted that his motive was to immediately join another party following his resignation from the BJD, Panda spent these nine odd months extensively travelling around Odisha meeting people and seeking their opinions.

In January last year, Panda was suspended from the primary membership of the BJD, with the party accusing him of being involved in ‘anti-party’ activities. However, denying the charges Panda claimed that he was viciously targeted and harassed for raising his voice against corruption.

Jay Panda is a four time Member of Parliament of India. He was elected to his second term (2014–2019) in the Lok Sabha from Kendrapara constituency. Earlier, he had been elected to the Lok Sabha in May 2009 as well as twice earlier to the Rajya Sabha in 2000 and 2006. He was leader of the BJD’s parliamentary party from 2002-2009 in the Rajya Sabha.