In a significant move that can change the political equations in the election year, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced that his party BJD will not be a part of the Grand Alliance. Addressing the media, Patnaik said that the BJD will continue to remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress. The announcement comes a day after Patnaik was quoted as saying that he would need time to consider about the poll alliance. Asked about his party's stand on joining the "mahagathbandhan", Patnaik had said, "We will take some time and think about it."
It is widely known that the BJD has been opposing the ruling BJP over issues related to farmers. On Tuesday, the BJD had organised a ‘sit-in’ protest seeking an increase in the minimum support price for paddy. Patnaik had alleged that the BJP ignored the demand despite promising it in its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP has stepped up efforts to increase footprint in Odisha. It had won only one out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 parliamentary elections. The BJD had won 20 seats and the Congress zero.
After its impressive win in panchayat elections in the state in 2017, the BJP has shifted focus on the state with an aim to upstage the BJD. The success of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2017 panchayat elections in Odisha has led to predictions that the BJP will emerge as the largest party in the state in the 2019 elections.
Interestingly, nine MPs of the BJD had voted in favour of NDA nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh in the election to the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman held in August last year.
With both Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj party opting for a Congress-less alliance in upcoming Lok Sabha Elections, BJD’s announcement means that the Grand Alliance may not have enough anti-BJP parties as its members. Even the Trinamool Congress and the TDP have also opposed the ‘Rahul Gandhi for PM’ stance. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee had rejected DMK leader MK Stalin’s backing of Congress president Rahul Gandhi as the United Opposition’s Prime Minister candidate. “It could be discussed only after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, once the opposition alliance emerged winners. All (opposition) parties will meet and decide on the issue. We will accept that,” Banerjee was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India.
(With agency inputs)