News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » BJD-BJP Alliance: Wishful Thinking

BJD-BJP Alliance: Wishful Thinking

March 23, 2024 11:00 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

Although the BJP has never been ballistic about the BJD and Narendra Modi has avoided being critical of Naveen Patnaik, the BJP is optimistic that the party can improve its electoral fortunes in Odisha on its own, notes Rup Narayan Das.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurates multiple development projects in Chandikhole, March 5, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Odisha which is otherwise known as Utkal or Kalinga has many distinctions.

One such distinction is that it converted the Mauryan emperor Ashoka who renounced the bloodshed of war and converted himself into an apostle of peace and non-violence preaching and propagating the teachings of Gautam Buddha.

In Odisha's political spectrum today, yet another prince, Naveen Patnaik, shines as a star chief minister in the midst of the melee and cacophony of the Opposition outcry against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

When Patnaik shared the dais on February 3 with Modi at the inauguration of a new building at IIM-Sambalpur in western Odisha, the PM's admiration for the spartan chief minister was palpable; Modi addressed Patnaik as mitra (friend).

Patnaik was frugal in his speech and carried his gait with dignity, grace and elegance not withstanding his frail health.

The next day, national newspapers carried a full page advertisement about the signing of an MoU between the government of Odisha and the premier Jawaharlal Nehru University, under the ministry of education, Government of India, for the establishment of the Biju Patnaik Special Centre for Odia Studies.

A week later, on February 13, a full page advertisement issued by the Odisha government displayed the photographs of Modi and Patnaik announcing an MoU between the state government and JSW to set up a gigafactory, electronic vehicle manufacturing and copper and lithium refinery.

Interestingly, the banner of the advertisement stated, 'inspired by the Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan'.

The reclusive Patnaik is known for his stoic silence and is unmoved and unruffled by ephemeral sandstorms that erupt in the Indian political landscape.

Scion of the legendary Biju Patnaik -- the former chief minister of Odisha, former Union Cabinet minister and a close associate of Jawaharlal Nehru -- Naveen Patnaik could not have thought of entering the murky water of politics.

Nestled in Lutyens' Delhi's Aurangzeb Road where his father had built a modest bungalow, Naveen Patnaik, after his schooling at Doon School and at the Kirori Mal college in the national capital, indulged in reading and writing and made friends with international glitterati like Robert De Niro, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and actress Koo Stark, to name a few.

It is not widely known that he even played a small role in Merchant Ivory's 1988 film The Deceivers.

He has written three books: A Second Paradise, Desert Kingdom and The Garden of Life.

The Biju Janata Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party entete share a chequered history in Odisha ever since the BJD was born in 1997 after Biju Patnaik's demise.

Naveen Patnaik, then aged 51, took over the reins of the party and contested the election from his father's Lok Sabha Aska constituency. That was the turning point in his life which baptised him to the rough and tumble of electoral politics.

His advantage was that he started with a clean slate without any prejudice and baggage while inheriting Biju Patnaik's legacy.

He was not hamstrung by dogmatic politics or the grammar of conventional politics.

He became chief minister in 2000 and later formed an alliance with the BJP which fell apart in 2008.

In Odisha, he humbled and disarmed detractors and adversaries through incisive political precision and lent a new lexicon to the much vaunted cooperative federalism of India upholding the interests of the state uppermost with clarity of vision and mind.

A devout devotee of Lord Jagannath, Naveen Patnaik outmanoeuvred the BJP when he inaugurated the Jagannath Parkrama at the Puri temple ahead of the prana pratistha of the temple in Ayodhya on January 22.

In a thoughtful and deferential gesture, however, he witnessed the pran pratistha and shared the photograph on social media.

IMAGE: Naveen Patnaik with Puri royal Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb at the Mandira Parikrama Prakalpa (Srimandir heritage corridor project) around the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri. Photograph: ANI Photo

While Modi is dedicated to the overall growth and development of the country, Patinaik is passionate about the development of his state and this defies the dichotomy between the two leaders, nudging political analysts to dub their relationship 'frenemies'.

The convergence between the two men was evident in the recent election to the Rajya Sabha in which the BJP declared Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw's candidature from the Odisha assembly where the party has no numerical strength to get its nominee elected to the Upper House of Parliament.

Vaishnaw, a former IAS officer of the Odisha cadre, served in the state before his plunge into politics.

The BJD, without any further loss of time swiftly extended its support to Vaishnav recognising the minister's contributions to the state and with the hope for future contributions.

Promptly, Vaishnaw announced the sanction of a new railway line between Puri and Konark.

The BJD has been supportive of the BJP in almost all its legislative and policy measures starting from demonetisation and abolition of Article 370, the Citizenship (Amendment_ Act to important laws passed by the government in the last session of Parliament.

In return, the BJD government and Odisha have benefited from the largesse of the BJP government.

The Modi-Patnaik chemistry led to speculation -- or call it wishful thinking in some sections -- that if not an alliance between the BJP and BJP, there would at least be some seat sharing for the 2024 Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

In fact, an attempt was made by a miniscule section of the BJD leadership to create the optic of the possibility of an alliance.

The ground reality is murmuring discontent with the BJD about the hijacking of the party by a few leaders. The BJP old guard bemoan the way the party is being handled.

Although the BJP has never been ballistic about the BJD and Modi has always avoided being critical of Naveen Patnaik, the BJP is still optimistic that the party can improve its electoral fortunes in Odisha on its own.

The BJP's reasoning is that the BJD under its own weight may decline, but it knows that it cannot dislodge the BJD as long as Naveen Patnaik is around.

Rup Narayan Das is a former senior fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research and the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024