New Delhi: Former Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Panda appears disillusioned with the BJP.
An irony of sorts, since his inclination to the saffron party, heaping praises on several policies of BJP-led government at the Centre as a columnist, had led to his ouster from the BJD last year having been accused of hobnobbing with the right wing ‘elites’ in Delhi.
In an interview to The Indian Express, he opined that “BJP has mostly dropped the ball” in Odisha even as it made rapid strides initially and grew 10 times. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s perceived softness towards BJD President Naveen Patnaik is also sending confusing signals within the party. “There are reports emerging now that the BJP is going to have a tacit understanding with the BJD because it has lost the nerve to fight in Odisha…,” Baijayant maintained.
Dismissing suggestions that he will join the BJP, the three-time lawmaker attributed the speculation to his articles which were interpreted as pro-Modi.
“The reality is a little different. I have been involved with the BJD from its founding and at the founding itself, it became an ally of the BJP. So we (have) had a common programme and I had to champion that programme,” Baijayant, who was the Kendrapara MP, said.
In December last year, he had dismissed an opinion poll, predicting huge gains for BJP in Odisha in Lok Sabha elections scheduled and termed it as ‘audacious’.
Political observers feel that Baijayant’s outburst against BJP shows his growing frustration with the saffron party which has kept him waiting for long but lost no time in welcoming former bureaucrat Aparajita Sarangi amid much fanfare.
Once Naveen’s close confidante, Baijayant, started shifting his ideological loyalty to Modi and the Sangha Parivar after the 2014 general elections. His close association with the right wing camp had once made a journalist suggest on Twitter that PM Modi should appoint him to a Cabinet position.
His growing proximity with BJP led to his ultimate ouster from BJD. His relationship with the BJD leaders had reached a new low, to the the point that none of them including Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik attended the last rites of this father, industrialist Bansidhar Panda, who died on May 22, 2018. A week later he quit the party. He was suspended from the primary membership of BJD in January the same year.
In his interview to The Indian Express, he did not rule out the possibility of floating his own party and said that his decisions will be based on whoever is aligned with his philosophy.
He accused BJD of corruption while referring to the chit fund scam and alleged that the party-ruled government had failed to check check crime in the State. “BJD has gone wrong and things need to change in Odisha,” he said.
BJD, he alleged, has played both the BJP and Congress successfully against each other, convincing them not to fight BJD seriously or the other national party will gain. This has weakened both the parties in the state.
He contended that the Chief Minister has delegated work to a new coterie during the past five years, which is giving shelter to criminals and causing much “ill-will” against the BJD.
Naveen’s own popularity is on the decline and if there is a combined contest from the opposition, then he will not be in an “unassailable position”, Baijayant said.
He further said erstwhile BJD leaders such as Damodar Rout, Bijoy Mohapatra Samata Kranti Dal Chief Braja Kishore Tripathy are publicly appealing to him to take a decision in the hope that he will announce the formation of a party.
There would be no dearth of viable candidates and even unhappy candidates from BJP would come out if the party allies with BJD, he said.
“Similarly, a new party does not have to fight on all seats. If there is a tie-up with another party, you fight 50-50 or 60-40 of the seats…these are the ways a credible combination can come,” he added.