Op-Ed: Modi-Naveen meeting, a significant encounter

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: On his first visit to Delhi after taking up the reins of the state for the fifth time chief minister, Naveen Patnaik is scheduled to meet Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. This is no ordinary meeting. To begin with this will be their first meeting after taking charge of their respective offices in their latest terms.

Secondly it comes in the wake of unprecedented havoc wreaked by cyclone Fani in several Odisha districts. Having made an aerial survey of the cyclone-hit areas along with Patnaik in the immediate wake of the disaster Modi is aware of the scale of damage sustained by coastal districts such as Puri and Khurda which bore the brunt of Fani.

Considering that loss to public property in the cyclone was to the tune of Rs.6643.63 crore and the state spent another Rs.2692.63 crore on relief measures Odisha would need substantial financial assistance from the Centre to compensate itself. This is the most important issue that Patnaik is going to take up with the Prime Minister who is expected to lend his guest a sympathetic ear.

Equally important are the political issues that the two leaders are likely to discuss, beginning with the possibility of BJD Lok Sabha member, Bhartruhari Mahtab being made a candidate for the post of Lok Sabha’s deputy speaker. The post is traditionally reserved for the opposition parties but backing a BJD leader has its own advantages for the Modi-led NDA as the regional party is likely to adopt a soft attitude towards the government.

Notwithstanding the public posturing of BJD leaders on issues like special category state status for Odisha and Mahanadi and Polavaram disputes the party is unlikely to strike a tough stance vis-a-vis the Centre as it may prove counter-productive at a time when the state needs generous assistance from the new dispensation in Delhi.

More importantly BJP and BJD have done business in the past. The fact that despite their divergent ideologies they successfully ran a coalition government in the state for more than nine years shows that both are capable of making opportunistic alliances depending on the situation. Central BJP leaders also realise that periodical reiteration of demands like special category state status for Odisha is a political compulsion for a party that thrives on regional passions.

Issues like special category status and Mahanadi were played up during the elections as the BJD needed a strong regional plank to target the BJP, its principal rival. Though neither Prime Minister, Narendra Modi nor BJP president Amit Shah rose to the bait chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, who was the star campaigner for his party, kept harping on them.

But the clever politician that he is Patnaik has ensured that these issues don’t spoil his relations with Modi who has also been extremely cordial towards Odisha chief minister and assured the state all possible cooperation from his government. The fact is that despite NDA enjoying a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, Modi needs Naveen just as much as the later needs him. The upcoming encounter between the two leaders in Delhi has to be seen in the context of this mutual need.

(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.)