Op-Ed: Special Category Demand Could Queer The Pitch for a BJP-BJD Tie Up

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has made it clear that its support to any political combine at the Centre would depend upon the coalition’s willingness to safeguard the interests of Odisha. Thus, the party which had so far been following a policy of equidistance from Congress and the BJP, seems ready to embrace both of them in the event of alliances led by them coming to power at the Centre if they commit themselves to upholding Odisha’s cause.

The more likely scenario in the wake of exit polls seems to be BJP leading its NDA allies back to power in Delhi. If that happens and the BJP needs BJD’s support it would be required to support some of the demands that the state’s BJD government has been raising for nearly two decades now.

For the BJP the trickiest of these demands would be the one that is closest to the heart of BJD leaders including its supremo, chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. He would immediately ask the new government in Delhi to grant Odisha special category state status. That would be an embarrassment for the saffron party given the bitterness the issue had generated between the two parties during campaigning.

The BJD had gone to the extent of lodging a police complaint against BJP accusing it of cheating the people of the state by not keeping its 2014 election promise of according special category status to Odisha and ignoring the demand altogether in its 2019 manifesto.

In its complaint the Naveen Patnaik-led party had described BJP’s failure to keep this promise as a ‘serious case of cheating.’

“This is to bring before you a serious case of cheating by Bhartiya Janata Party in Odisha in 2014. In their election manifesto they had promised that if they come to power they would provide special category status to Odisha. However, when they came to power they did not keep up their promise and cheated the 4.5 crore people of Odisha,” read the complaint. It pointed out how the party had dropped the demand altogether in its 2019 election manifesto which showed that it was not serious about the issue at all.

As it is chief minister and BJD president, Naveen Patnaik has been consistently demanding special category status for Odisha citing the underdevelopment of the state in many respects. In his letter to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on the subject in January this year Patnaik had written, “ successive central governments have neglected Odisha. It is a fact that Odisha remains at the bottom in the country in most central subjects like tele density, railway network, banking network and coverage, national highway and air connectivity. It is in this premise of historical central neglect and frequent natural calamities that my government has been demanding special category status for Odisha which will supplement our efforts in transforming the state.”

That being so the special category status demand is certain to top BJD’s list when the party negotiates with the next government at the Centre. In the event of negotiations with a BJP-led government, which is more likely, this could become a major stumbling block.

(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.)