Op-Ed: Patkura Contest Will Be An Interesting Watch

Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Will BJP be able to make a battle of it in Patkura? The question has become extremely relevant with by-poll dates announced and three major parties in the fray chalking out their strategies.

The by-poll has to be seen in the context of ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) comprehensive victory in the recent assembly elections and its growing closeness with the BJP which despite having a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha needs the support of non-NDA parties in the Rajya Sabha where it still does not have the numbers.

Political circles have been abuzz with the talk renewed bonhomie between BJD and BJP following chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s recent meeting with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Notwithstanding the acrimony of the election campaign during which top BJP and BJD leaders went hammer and tongs at each other the meeting between the two leaders was cordial.

While the Prime Minister is believed to have sought BJD’s cooperation in the parliament Patnaik presented Modi with a list of his own demands including special category status for Odisha which was also a major campaign issue for Odisha’s most successful regional party. Both sides, it appears, are willing to play ball.

Reciprocity is supposed to be the watchword in such matters and Patnaik responded immediately by accommodating Modi’s request for supporting the candidature of BJP leader and former IAS officer, Ashwini Vaishnav for the Rajya Sabha from Odisha. Vaishnav has since been elected unopposed to the Upper House, thanks to BJD’s unstinted support.

The only deviation in this perfect “ mutual friendship” script so far has been union environment ministry’s decision to grant a two-year extension for work on the controversial Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh which Odisha has been opposing tooth and nail. The move comes as an embarrassment for chief minister, Naveen Patnaik who has made his displeasure known in a letter to Prime Minister urging him to call an immediate halt to the construction of the project that would have adverse socio-economic impact on lakhs of tribals in Malkangiri district.

Considering that Patnaik has written to the Centre over Polavaram in the past as well and Modi, despite his compulsions of keeping new Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Jaganmohan Reddy in good humour would not like to lose the support of BJD, the NDA government is expected to find ways of addressing Odisha’s grievances on the issue or compensating it in some other manner.

It is this backdrop of emerging friendship between BJP and BJD that makes Patkura by-poll battle interesting. Will it be a serious fight or will it be a fixed match between these two major contenders? The Congress, which is the third party in the fray, appears convinced that the so-called contest between BJP and BJD in Patkura would be nothing more than a drama for the consumption of the masses. A senior Congress leader has gone on record describing the so-called rivals as the two sides of the same coin. By all accounts, this by-poll is going to be keenly watched.

(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.)