When Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supported the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh for the post of deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha in August last year, it seemed clear that he would, at least, not go against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, if not join hands. However, things have changed a lot since then and as the Lok Sabha elections come a little closer, the BJD supremo would now directly take on Modi in his maiden rally in the national capital on January 8. Patnaik will hold a farmers’ rally at Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium on Tuesday in protest against the Narendra Modi government’s “anti-farmer” policies.
The BJD has been demanding the ruling government to increase the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy by at least 50 per cent as promised by the party during the 2014 general elections. However, the BJD claims that the Modi government rejected its proposal to fix the MSP for paddy at Rs 2,930 a quintal.
"Like the last few years, this year, too, the Odisha government’s proposal for raising the MSP for paddy has been ignored by the central agriculture ministry," Pratap Jena, who is in charge of health, information and public relations in the Odisha cabinet, said in a press conference in Delhi.
He said the farmers in the Odisha were not getting a reasonable price for their produce as the Centre fixed the MSP for paddy without considering the rising input costs. "As the MSP for paddy being fixed by the central government is not commensurate with the rising input costs, the farmers in Odisha are deprived of getting a reasonable price for their produce," the BJD leader said.
By holding a farmer’s rally some 15,000 km away from his home turf, Patnaik would join the league of Opposition parties who are targeting the Modi government over the prevailing agrarian crisis in the country. Also, it is to be noted that the Assembly elections in Odisha are due to be held this year, concurrent with the general elections and Patnaik's rally against Modi could be very well keeping that in mind.
Earlier when BJD voted in support of BJP-led NDA candidate in Rajya Sabha, experts thought Patnaik did it as he may need the saffron party's support if his party fell short of the majority in the state elections. Also, Patnaik’s decision to take on Modi coincides with a string of recent opinion polls predicting significant gains for the BJP in national elections in Odisha.