With Odisha set for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, a number of politicians have defected to rival parties.
Among the most recent ones to do so are Balabhadra Majhi, the BJD MP from Nabarangpur, and former Odisha minister Damodar Rout, who has vowed to “oust” BJD chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Both the leaders have joined the BJP.
Majhi, who had recently quit the BJD, said his decision was based on the treatment meted out to tribals and Dalits by the party.
“BJD leaders in charge of tribal and Dalit dominated districts (in Odisha) do not wish those populations to take leadership positions to develop those areas….They interfere in everything,” Majhi claimed.
Majhi is the second BJD MP to join the BJP this year, with Baijayant Jay Panda joining the saffron party earlier in March.
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Another BJD leader to have switched over to the BJP is Damodar Rout, who joined the saffron party on Friday.
Rout’s son, who visited Patnaik’s residence earlier this week, has said that he would like to contest the polls from his father’s Assembly seat — Paradip — on a BJD ticket. Damodar Rout is said to be eyeing another Assembly seat.
BJP workers had earlier staged protests against Rout for his comments on caste, and on women anganwadi workers. BJD’s Nilagiri MLA Sukanta Kumar Nayak also quit the party recently, saying he was subjected to “mental torture” by the district BJD president. However, he is yet to announce the name of the party he will join.
Meanwhile, former Union minister and Rourkela MLA, Dilip Ray, who had quit the BJP, met Patnaik on Saturday evening, prompting speculation that he will return to the BJD. “Ray will join the BJD on Sunday. His return will influence many leaders, who may be thinking of jumping parties before polls,” said a BJD MP requesting anonymity. “Ray can still influence the old guard in state politics.”
Ray, one of Odisha’s wealthiest politicians, has ties across party lines, and is likely to boost the BJD’s prospects if he joins the party.
Ray had played a key role in the formation of the BJD in the 1990s, but was removed by Patnaik in 2002. He subsequently joined the BJP, but quit the saffron party in December 2018 along with another former BJD leader, Bijoy Mohapatra.
Meanwhile, Odisha BJP president Basanta Panda’s nephew, Harish Chandra, Saturday said that he will join the BJD,
citing “autocracy” in the saffron party. BJP has said the move will not impact the party.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Salepur, Prakash Behera, became the third legislator to quit the party after Naba Das and Jogesh Singh. On reports that he may join BJP, Behera said he is yet to take a final decision.