The vote by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in favour of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh for the post of deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha has left Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Odisha unsure about the path to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but has given rival Congress a glimmer of hope.
BJD’s support from a position of equidistance from NDA helped Singh get 125 votes but in the process Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has managed to take the sting out of the BJP’s concerted attack on him.
Dissident state BJP leaders such as Bijoy Mahapatra has said that BJD’s support would disorient BJP cadres and voters. “The whole exercise may have helped NDA win a post, but the biggest gainer is Naveen Patnaik whose stature as kingmaker has gone several notches up. This also indicates that there may be a possible tie-up between the BJD and BJP after the 2019 elections,” Mahapatra said.
Just less than a year ago, Odisha’s political atmosphere was all charged up when BJP chief Amit Shah during a party workers’ meeting in Odisha compared the 71-year-old chief minister to a “burnt-out transformer” in front of a “powerhouse” like Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Shah, who had set a target of winning 120 of the 147 assembly seats, had described the four-time chief minister as a leader “bereft of ideas” and short on effective implementation of schemes.
This came after the BJP did really well in the 2017 panchayat polls, in which its vote share increased to 32% from 15% in 2012 and it was second after the ruling BJD in the number of seats won. Congress was third.
But a year down the line, poll realities seem to have hit home hard for the BJP as Patnaik has reinvented his politics by introducing a slew of new schemes and invoking Odia pride.
“This is how electoral politics works and BJP has probably realised that they may need BJD after the polls,” said Surya Mishra, a Bhubaneswar-based retired political science professor.
BJD, on its part, defended siding with Singh saying they were not voting for NDA as such and their change of heart was for Janata Dal(United). “On an ideological plane, we are together with the JD(U),” said party spokesperson Sasmit Patra, soon after Patnaik let everyone know that Modi and Shah had called him up seeking his support.
Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik said it is not difficult to know why the BJD voted for NDA. “BJD supporting the NDA candidate in the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election isn’t surprising at all, that’s what allies are supposed to do. It’s a deal to stop the CBI from exposing the BJD’s misdeeds. This strengthens the ongoing rumors of seat sharing discussions between BJP and BJD,” he said.
Though squirming over the electoral repercussions of the Rajya Sabha vote, senior BJP leaders put up a brave front saying this was “brilliant floor management” by BJP central leaders. “You see, the BJD had no option but to support the NDA. But the wound of 2009 (when BJD ended its nine-year-long alliance with BJP) is still fresh. I don’t think, this vote would have any bearing on next year’s elections,” said BJP national secretary Suresh Pujari.
Former BJD leader and political commentator Panchanan Kanungo said Thursday’s development may have harmed the poll prospects of both BJD and BJP, but it would be worth watching if the Congress can gain from this.
“BJP would have been the natural beneficiary of an anti-incumbency situation. But in the last panchayat poll, Congress had just 18% votes. If Congress can arrest its slide and convince people about the BJD and BJP fooling everyone, it may gain,” said Kanungo.
Niranjan Patnaik said the BJD’s vote for the NDA candidate will help the Congress as people of Odisha have realised that the CM and the BJP are two sides of the same coin.
First Published: Aug 10, 2018 01:31 IST