By: Soumyajit Pattnaik
It was a foregone conclusion that BJD in all probability would stay away from the Mahagathbandhan being forged at the national level to defeat the NDA. Eyebrows were raised yesterday when chief minister Naveen Patnaik said he would take time to decide on joining the Mahagathbandhan. The CM’s words triggered speculations whether he was seriously mulling the option of joining the Grand Alliance with Congress as an ally. Before more speculations and confusions could set in, CM Naveen today stepped forward promptly to clarify that the BJD “is not part of the Mahagathbandhan” and “we continue to maintain equidistance from the BJP & Congress”.
CM Naveen’s statement is timely to scotch all whispers in the political corridors about the possibility of new alignments in state. However, the CM’s statement is cautiously worded as he says BJD “IS” not part of the Grand Alliance. He didn’t say BJD “WILL NOT BE” part of the Grand Alliance. But the clarification was timely to keep both BJP and Congress guessing about his future moves.
Why did CM Naveen jettison the Mahagathbandhan at this juncture? As PM Modi has intensified his political campaigns in Odisha, many would have expected BJD enter the Grand Alliance to keep the BJP at bay. But the BJD perhaps would have committed hara-kiri had it decided to enter the Grand Alliance. And the reasons are not too far to seek.
First, the BJD was born as a political force to counter the Congress in the State. It was born when the Congress was in power in the State. And its first objective was to oust the Congress from power and usher in new governance radically different from “Congress misrule”.
Second, the BJD is named after Biju Babu, who quit the Congress and fought against the Grand Old Party for more than 25 years when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were PM. Anti-Congressism is in BJD’s DNA. Anti-Congressism is BJD’s creed and guiding philosophy.
Even though the Congress is no longer the predominant political force in the country, due to historical reasons, it will be difficult for the BJD to join hands with the Congress. If the BJD joins hands with the Congress by entering the Grand Alliance, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik will draw severe flak from political rivals for consigning the ideals of Biju Babu to the dustbin.
Third, by entering the Mahagathbandhan, the BJD will risk losing the anti-Congress votes to the BJP. It will also concede that to thwart the BJP march in Odisha, it now requires help from new allies. In states where the Mahagathbandhan has been forged or on the anvil, the parties on their own strength can’t defeat the BJP and they require joint efforts. By opening his options open for the Mahagathbandhan, the BJD would have also sent a similar message that the BJP is increasing its strength in Odisha and it may not be possible for it to check the saffron party’s march on its own strength. It would impact the morale of the party workers and change voter perception about the BJP.
Fourth, BJD will get more manoeuvring space if it decides to reveal its cards after the elections. In the post-poll scenario, depending upon the numbers for both alliances, the BJD can take a final call.
Most opinion polls have so far predicted a hung Lok Sabha after the 2019 polls with no pre-poll alliance touching the magic figure of 272. In this backdrop, the BJD and other non-aligned parties may play a key role in government formation after the 2019 polls.