Op-Ed: The New NDA Government and Naveen

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: So what will be the equation like between Modi-led NDA government at the Centre and the Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha? Friendly or adversarial? Or will it oscillate between the two?

These questions have become relevant following government formation in Delhi and Bhubaneswar in the wake of a protracted election with campaigning marked by acrimony. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who led the BJP campaign from the front, had made repeated attacks on BJD and its mascot, Naveen Patnaik.

Modi’s lieutenant-in-chief and BJP president, Amit Shah was even more scathing in his attacks on Naveen calling his government a burnt transformer and repeatedly urging party cadres and the people of the state to throw it into the Bay of Bengal.

But with the announcement of results things have become calm with both Modi and Naveen congratulating each other. While Modi should be satisfied with the eight Lok Sabha seats that his party won in the state the achievement for Naveen, who has been crowned the chief minister of the state for the fifth time in a row, has been stupendous.

Now both Modi and Naveen appear inclined to forget the bitterness generated by the election campaign and look forward to a future of mutual cooperation. Odisha chief minister has made it clear that as far as national politics is concerned his party would go with the political combination that assures to safeguard the interests of Odisha.

As a regional party that is the right stand to take for BJD which has achieved unprecedented success in the state only because of its commitment to the cause of Odisha. Since the BJP needs BJD despite enjoying a majority in the Lok Sabha on its own Prime Minister, Narendra Modi will try to be as accommodative as possible towards the Naveen Patnaik government in the state.

But for that he would need to sort out certain irritants which had bedevilled his government’s relations with Naveen in his first term as Prime Minister. The most important of these issues is Naveen government’s demand for special category state status to Odisha. The chief minister has been raising this demand with the Centre eversince he came to power in the state for the first time in 2000 at the head of a BJD-BJP coalition.

The Centre is yet to accede to the demand with Modi government taking a stand that favours special packages for needy states instead of special category status. But with Naveen sticking to the demand one wonders what the response of Modi would be.

Then there are other issues like Mahanadi and Polavaram disputes with a growing feeling in Odisha that the Centre has been biased against the state. With dams and barrages built over Mahanadi on Chhatisgarh side already beginning to obstruct the flow of river’s water into Odisha the dispute needs to be sorted out as early as possible. Even though the matter is before a tribunal which has suggested that both the states should find a mutually amicable solution Centre’s role in the resolution of the dispute would be crucial.

Similarly Odisha would also expect the Centre to address its concerns over the Polavaram dam coming up in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh immediately. The dam is likely to submerge several villages in the tribal-dominated Malkangiri district of the state. One has to see if the Modi-led NDA government continues to favour Andhra Pradesh on this or ensures suitable changes in the project taking Odisha’s grievances into account. Whether the relations between the new NDA government and Naveen Patnaik would be friendly or inimical will depend a lot on Modi’s response to these issues.

(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.)