Businessman-turned-politician Baijayant Jay Panda, who quit the BJD in May following differences with Odisha Chief Minister and party chief Naveen Patnaik, joined the BJP on Monday. The BJP has said the move would boost its cadre in Odisha ahead of the elections.
“I am glad to join BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah who will take the country forward,” Panda said while joining the party at its headquarters in Delhi.
Panda was welcomed by Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and BJP general secretary in-charge of Odisha Arun Singh. He later met party chief Shah.
Assembly polls in Odisha are likely to be held alongside the Parliamentary elections and the BJP hopes that Panda’s presence will brighten its prospects, especially in the coastal regions.
“Nine months of introspection & widespread consultations w/colleagues & public. Grateful for support recd from all over. On auspicious #MahaShivratri I’ve decided to join @BJP4India & work under the leadership of @narendramodi Ji to serve Odisha & India to the best of my ability,” Panda tweeted just before joining the BJP officially.
Panda was a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJD before being elected to Lok Sabha from Kendrapara in the 2014 general elections. He quit the party in May, citing “absolute depths of inhumanity” within the party and Patnaik.
The BJD had accused him of “anti-party activities” and also alleged that he was involved in money laundering. Panda has denied the charges.
Odisha has 21 parliamentary constituencies and the BJD had won 20 of them in 2014. The BJP had won only one seat —Sundargarh, represented by Union minister for tribal affairs Jual Oram.
The BJP has identified Odisha as one of the priority states ahead of the polls. In the 2017 state rural elections, the BJP emerged as the second largest party, pushing the Congress to the third spot.