Orissa Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik had made up his mind to part company with his decade-old ally by the time Rajya Sabha MP and BJP representative Chandan Mitra called on him on Sunday evening to re-write the seat-sharing arrangement between the two parties.
Sources said Patnaik told Mitra that he would give the BJP 35 assembly (out of 147) and five Lok Sabha seats (from a total of 21). The proposal meant a drastic cut in the BJP quota. The existing formula provided for 63 assembly and nine Lok Sabha seats to the BJP.
Before Mitra could even react,Patnaik said he was sure this would not be acceptable to him. When Mitra sought to buy time to consult senior BJP leaders,Patnaik said there was no need for it. The BJD chief showed no inclination to accept Mitras counsel that they do not go public right away. Instead,he stepped out of the room and announced to the cameras that the BJD-BJP alliance was off. It is most unfortunate that such a long-standing ally has left us, Mitra told The Sunday Express.
The BJP has convened a meeting of the core committee on Sunday to take stock of the situation. The candidness which has been displayed by Patnaik is the hallmark of his working. The least troublesome of all BJP allies,Patnaik never practised brinkmanship with his saffron partner. When the time came,he simply walked out of the alliance.
As for the road ahead,he is set to tread the same track as his father Biju Patnaikthe third front. According to reports,Patnaik had been in touch with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury.
The break-up,coming as it does ahead of the Lok Sabha polls,is bad news for the BJP as two NDA partners,the JD(U) and the Shiv Sena,are up in arms. For the BJP,it means a further decline in clout and bargaining power. It would be under greater pressure to give in to pressure from allies.
The position taken by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat that his party would not back a Congress-led Government has reignited the hope among regional satraps that a third front government may be viable again. This explains the hyperactivity in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh where JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda and Telugu Desam leader Chandrababu Naidu have stitched up multi-party alliances. AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa and BSP leaders have kept their options after an initial tilt towards the Left.
An independent course would ensure a wider national role for Patnaik as well. He has taken a calculated risk by going it alone in polls. If it does not pay off,he can tie up with the BJP again,on terms which would be decided by their post-poll strength.