The BJD’s decision to vote for the NDA’s nominee for the post of Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha has yet again left leaders and workers of the BJD in Odisha confused.
“Naveen Patnaik always emphasises equidistance from the Congress and the BJP,” said a BJD MLA. “Now the Congress will again claim that BJD and BJP are in a tacit alliance or that we have been cowed into submission using the CBI as a threat,” he said, adding that his job of attacking the BJP in Odisha is now more difficult. Several other MLAs and district presidents made the same admission.
State Congress president Niranjan Patnaik tweeted on Thursday, “Is the tacit understanding between the JDU and the BJD, for the #RajyaSabhaDeputyChairman election responsible for the silence of CM Shri Naveen Patnaik on these heinous crimes (rapes in UP and Bihar), which have received universal condemnation and have put the nation in a state of shock?”
On Thursday, the BJD’s nine votes in favour of the NDA candidate gave the BJP its second major victory against the opposition in this Parliament session. Earlier, a walkout by the BJD’s 19 Lok Sabha MPs during the no-confidence motion had helped the government by lowering the number of votes required to defeat the motion.
Late on Wednesday night, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in Bhubaneswar, “We will be supporting the JD(U) candidate who is also the NDA candidate”. He also confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had spoken to him on the matter.
Explaining its stand, the BJD said in a press release, “BJD will support the JD(U) candidate because the ideological foundations of both parties are largely similar, inspired by Loknayak Jay Prakash Narayan’s revolution. On the other hand, the Congress nominee (B K Hariprasad), in an earlier role as Odisha in-charge for AICC, has condemned the BJD and the state government in the strongest of words.”
Over the past four years, the BJD has extended partial or full support to the BJP on demonetisation, GST, surgical strikes, candidatures of Ram Nath Kovind and M Venkaiah Naidu for president and vice-president posts, respectively, no-confidence motion, and NRC. In May, Naveen did not attend the swearing-in of H D Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister of the JDS-Congress government in Karnataka — an event attended by several Opposition leaders.
BJD Lok Sabha MP Rabindra Jena, however, said, “Since 2014, the BJD has also strongly opposed the BJP on land acquisition, Mahanadi, Polavaram, and failure of Ayushmaan Bharat, food security and Ujjwala schemes.” Asked about allegations that the party has been silent on incidents of rapes and lynchings in BJP-ruled states, BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said, “BJD does not have to take a stand on every issue, unless it is a matter of national security, like NRC or surgical strikes.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, a senior leader of Odisha BJP unit said, “Naveen is doing this to confuse our cadres. But if he thinks his support to our national leadership will blunt our strategy against him in Odisha, he is mistaken. Our strategy to defeat the BJD does not rely on making direct attacks on Naveen, who is still liked by voters who perceive him to be honest.”
“Instead, we tell people Naveen is a tired leader who can no longer control corruption and anarchy in BJD and the state. Naveen’s support gives us more legitimacy and strengthens our actions over the past four years at the Centre,” he said.