Naveen takes a Left turn,stunned BJP counts losses

A day after the end of the BJD-BJP alliance in Orissa,a new political equation emerged in the state with the CPM and BJD sewing up a pre-poll alliance......

Written by Express News Service | Bhubaneshwar/new Delhi | Published:March 9, 2009 1:18 am

A day after the end of the BJD-BJP alliance in Orissa,a new political equation emerged in the state with the CPM and BJD sewing up a pre-poll alliance. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik,asked by Governor M C Bhandare today to take a floor test following the BJP withdrawal of support to his government,was all set to prove his majority on March 11 with support from the Left,NCP and JMM.

CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury told reporters after meeting Patnaik that his party would have a pre-poll alliance with the BJD. “I congratulate Naveen for severing ties with BJP after 10 years.” Responding to a question on the BJD joining the Third Front,Yechury said a discussion in this regard had already begun.

Patnaik,on his part,said: “BJD will have seat sharing adjustment with the Left parties. Party leaders will decide which seats will be given to them.” He said winnability would be the prime factor while selecting candidates.

His father Biju Patnaik,a Janata Dal leader,had also entered into an alliance with Left parties for the 1990 Assembly election in Orissa. They had together won 125 of the 147 Assembly seats in the state.

Patnaik,who met Bhandare at the Raj Bhavan this morning along with 58 of the 61 BJD legislators,said the Governor has given him 72 hours to prove his majority. He was also accompanied by 3 of the 4 JMM members,2 of the NCP,1 CPM,1 CPI and 7 Independents who had won the 2004 Assembly polls with BJD backing.

“We have the support of 78 legislators. A few from BJP are ready to support us on the floor of the House,” claimed senior BJD leader Damodar Rout.

BJD Rajya Sabha MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra said the alliance had to end as the BJP did not agree on the “principle of winnability” set by it. “There is no point giving away seats to the Congress as BJP can’t win most of the seats it plans to contest,” Mohapatra told The Indian Express.

BJD sources said Patnaik had been working on the Left,NCP and JMM for the last couple of months,preparing for the scenario where the BJP would not agree to a new seat-sharing arrangement. “He was in touch with Brinda Karat and Prakash Karat for a possible alliance,” said a senior BJD leader.

In New Delhi,Prakash Karat welcomed the parting of ways between the BJD and BJP and said the Left parties were confident that more non-Congress,non-BJP parties would join them to forge a third alternative for the polls.

“Two days ago,(BJP leader) L K Advani had pooh-poohed the idea of a Third Font and said India had a stable bi-polar polity. India cannot have a two-party system however much the BJP and Congress wish,” Karat told reporters.

The BJP blamed the Left and Patnaik’s advisers for the end of the alliance. “Naveen Patnaik’s unilateral decision to terminate the 11-year-old alliance amounted to a gross betrayal of the trust reposed by the people of Orissa in the alliance for over a decade. It appears that Left parties and others day-dreaming about their post-election prospects in Delhi have misled Shri Patnaik with the help of some of the Chief Minister’s controversial advisers,” read a resolution drafted by Balbir Punj and Chandan Mitra.

The BJP decided to contest all 21 Lok Sabha seats and 147 Assembly seats in Orissa. But Patnaik’s decision to call off the alliance came as a huge blow to the idea of the NDA as an “expanding,credible,anti-Congress alliance”,something that was visible today in senior leader Jaswant Singh’s intervention at the BJP core committee meeting at the residence of L K Advani.

Jaswant Singh wanted to know why the state BJP couldn’t have waited a day more and why did they have to withdraw support to the state government on Saturday itself. BJP leaders from Orissa countered it by saying they had withdrawn support to Patnaik’s government only after getting the go-ahead from Advani and Rajnath Singh,something that was corroborated by the two leaders.

“NDA PM-candidate L K Advani’s ratings for the prime ministerial position,according to our survey,were highest in Orissa among all states. The Advani-Naveen combination would have proved unbeatable in the state. This is why we were taken aback by the decision,” admitted a BJP leader present at the meeting.

Another leader agreed that “with politics all being all about perceptions,the Orissa developments don’t augur well for the alliance at all”.

Earlier in the day,Rajnath Singh admitted that the Orissa decision was “absolutely unexpected” and that “things were not smooth” for the alliance.

The Shiv Sena,emboldened by BJD snub to BJP,put forth a demand for the Jalgaon Lok Sabha constituency,falling in the BJP quota. The Sena argument: better prospects for its candidate. The Sena wants the seat for Suresh Jain,a former Maharashtra minister,who recently quit the NCP to join them. It came up with the Jalgaon demand after the BJP agreed to concede three contentious seats — Mumbai South-Central,Kalyan and Washim-Yavatmal — to the party.

“The talks (between former Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena and BJP’s Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari) are currently deadlocked,” a senior Sena leader told The Indian Express. “We are in no hurry,let them make up their mind,” he said.

There is a bit of unease in the Bihar alliance too with the JD(U). But Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has his hands tied because of two factors. One,he cannot rock the boat to the extent of endangering his own government — it cannot survive without BJP support. Two,his own party president,Sharad Yadav,happens to be the working president of the NDA,which implies that he play the peace-keeper. But the JD(U) is hopeful of extracting at least one seat more from the BJP,citing concentration of Muslim votes.

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