Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday made it clear that his Biju Janata Dal will not join any grand alliance (or mahagathbandhan) the opposition parties are trying to form before general elections, and neither would it align with the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting, The Biju Janata Dal president said his party would “continue with our policy of equidistance from the BJP and the Congress”.
“I want to clarify that as far as mahagathbandhan is concerned, the Biju Janata Dal is not a part of it,” he said.
The chief minister’s statement is significant as several non-Bharatiya Janata Party parties are trying to forge unity in a bid to form a grand alliance to take on the ruling party in the Lok Sabha elections this year.
Patnaik’s statement comes a day after he said during his visit to Delhi on Tuesday that his party needed time to take a decision on mahagathbandhan. “We will take some time and think about it,” he had said.
While the ruling BJD was in alliance with BJP for over a decade and both shared power in the state from 2000-2009, the regional party snapped ties with the saffron party on the eve of 2009 elections. Thereafter, it has been maintaining distance from both the BJP and the Congress.
The BJP, meanwhile, accused the BJD of having some “understanding” with the Congress, which, in turn, charged that Patnaik’s party has been “with the BJP all along”.
Odisha BJP president Basant Panda said, “There is no doubt that the BJD is having hidden understanding with the Congress. Patnaik's statement is nothing but a ploy to mislead the people.”
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik lashed out at the chief minister accusing him of being with the BJP all along, but claiming to have an “equal distance policy” only in self-defence.
Referring to Patnaik’s meeting with Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao last month, he said it was an exercise to weaken anti-BJP forces.
Patnaik during his meeting with K Chandrasekhar Rao last month, had said: “We are state teams.”
Then, KCR and Patnaik had emphasised on unification of regional parties to provide an alternative to the Congress and the BJP ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Citing several instances, Congress leaders said BJD MPs had staged walkout during a no-confidence motion against the Modi government in Lok Sabha last year “which showed its affinity towards the saffron party”.
Moreover, the BJD had also supported the National Democratic Alliance candidate in presidential elections, besides backing several moves including demonetisation and GST, they said.
BJD MPs had also voted in favour of NDA nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh during election for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman.
Since 2009, the BJD has been fighting Lok Sabha as well as assembly elections alone.
Odisha has 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly seats and the two polls will take place simultaneously in the state.