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Will Naveen Patnaik opt for Modi?

May 21, 2019 10:01 IST

Those who know Naveen Patnaik well say his final decision will depend on who has the edge after the election.
Ramani Ranjan Mohapatra reports.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, right, greets Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi

IMAGE: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, right, greets Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.

Voting for the Odisha assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats is over, but the challenge for Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik is far from over.

The state government has a formidable task ahead in rebuilding the districts devastated by cyclone Fani.

On the political front, however, Patnaik is in a sweet spot.

He is being wooed by both the Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling National Democratic Alliance and the United Progressive Alliance headed by the Congress.

On its part, the BJD, which has so far been claiming to be keeping equidistant from both the national alliances since the BJD parted ways with the BJP in 2009, is now keeping its options wide open.

'We will not adopt the equal distance (from the BJP and the Congress) policy any more. The BJD will support any front which supports Odisha,' PTI quoted BJD Vice-President and Minister S N Patro as saying.


The confidence stems from the fact that the BJD is widely expected to come back to power in the state despite a resurgent Opposition, particularly the BJP, trying to make the most of the anti-incumbency against the four-time Patnaik government.

But the winning margin may take a few hard knocks, with the rousing response to Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and BJP President Amit Anilchandra Shah's corruption allegations against Patnaik.

The attacks brought out an unusually combative chief minister who countered the allegations point by point touring the state in a high-tech bus.

Now that the elections are over, that tone has changed considerably.

Modi promptly visited the areas affected by cyclone Fani with Patnaik at his side.

What followed was praises from both sides, a stark difference from the abuse and rhetoric used in the election campaign.

Modi hailed Patnaik for handling the situation before and after the cyclone.

Patnaik wrote to Modi, thanking him for quick release of funds.

The buzz about the BJP trying to cosy up to the BJD was the appreciation the Odisha CM received from Shah.

The BJP president said instances of violence in Mamata Banerjee's West Bengal during the election were not seen in Patnaik's state.

The praise raised many eyebrows as Shah and BJP leaders had recently accused the BJD of unleashing terror and violence during the election.

The Congress is trying to woo the BJD, too, with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi inviting leaders of allies and non-NDA parties, including Patnaik, for a meeting in New Delhi on results day on May 23 to discuss the future course of action.

The Congress has also reportedly deputed Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath to try and convince his good old friend Patnaik to back the party at the Centre.

On the other hand, neighbouring Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had met Patnaik earlier that had fuelled speculation about him joining the Federal/Third Front of non-Congress, non-BJP parties.

Though Patnaik is known to hold the cards close to his chest, developments post the election and the cyclone hint that his party would again join hands with the BJP.

But those who know Patnaik well say his final decision would depend on who has the edge after the Lok Sabha election.

Ramani Ranjan Mohapatra
Source: source image