Is Odisha entering a new phase of politics?

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 18: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi setting tone for the Lok Sabha polls 2019, the country is steadily entering into election mode. And in Odisha, the mood is already upbeat wit all political parties sharpening their knives for the crucial showdown.

However, what is interesting this time the state politics has started meandering in new and yet unexpected lanes and by-lanes, signaling some possible strange alliances and coalitions. None for the sure, at least for now, – knows how it will shape up before run-up to the polls.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) which until a few days ago claimed itself as non-aligned and neutral party maintaining equidistance from the BJP and Congress appears to be slowly getting closure to the BJP as the resurgent state Congress unit has started making serious bids to grab power. In fact, the BJD and BJP shared a strong alliance from 1998 to 2009 until they parted ways in 2009 over seat-sharing for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

Although the BJD and BJP have been dismissing the possibility of a re-alliance to prevent the Congress from re-emergence in Odisha politics, a few recent development have fuelled the speculation that both the parties are inching closer, much because of political compulsions.

It’s well-known that the BJD and BJP are ideological polls apart. But that did not prevent them from entering into an alliance in 1998 to oust their common enemy – the Congress, – from power in the state.

The BJP-BJD coalition ran smoothly till 2009. The Congress lied low all these years because of the lackluster leadership and intra-party bickering.

After its separation from the alliance, the saffron party, then the third major power, – filled the void of main opposition. It literally dragged the BJD to the dock on chit fund scam, mining scam and a few other major corruption and governance issues.

The animosity between the BJD and BJP grew after the CBI took over the chit fund scam probe following a Supreme Court order and rounded up nearly half-a-dozen BJD leaders, including a sitting Lok Sabha member and two sitting MLAs, – for their alleged involvement in the multi-crore irregularities.

The BJD saw the CBI inquiry into the chit fund scam as an act vengeance by the BJP to settle score with it for breaking the alliance. Many of the BJD leaders went on to allege that the BJP leaders were indulging in politics of vendetta and tried to destablise their party by ‘blatant misuse’ of power. The enmity between the two turned bitter between the regional satrap and the saffron brigade after the latter catapulted itself to second position in the rural polls held in February 2017.

However, equation between the BJD and BJP appears to changing after the BJD members refrained from participating in the No-Confidence Motion brought against the Narendra Modi government in Lok Sabha on July 19 this year.

While the Opposition hoped the BJD would go with them as it had turned an avowed rival of the BJP, – the latter’s stand on the motion baffled them. The move was seen as seen a good will gesture by the BJD president.

The talk of the two parties inching closer towards a new understanding got further credence when the BJD , following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s request to chief minister Naveen Patnaik, – extended support to the NDA’s Rajya Sabha deputy chairman candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh.

Analysts have started predicting that since the BJP is going to lose a crucial number of seats in northern and central parts of the country, it would try to woo some allies in the east so as to compensate the loss. In Odisha, the BJD would most likely to go with the saffron party mainly for two reasons –as it (BJP) is a strong non-Congress platform and secondly ties with the latter would not make any dent to its vote bank.

There are theories going on that apart from political considerations the BJD has also a compulsion to support to the BJP to protect its chit fund accused leaders against harassment by the CBI.

The Congress, meanwhile, – under the new state chief Niranjan Patnaik has also started looking for potential leaders who have grouses against the BJD and BJP state leaderships. The grand old party’s strategists feel that the only way to check the BJD and BJP entering into a fresh phase of coalition to preempt its emergence is to destablise them by poaching their potential leaders.

By A K Sahoo

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