BJD, BJP Walk Tightrope As Alliance Talks Hit Seat-Sharing Roadblock

Bhubaneswar: With some senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders denying before media the possibility of an alliance with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the fate of a possible electoral tie-up between the two parties seems to hang in balance following a stalemate over seat-sharing arrangement and adverse reactions from the grassroots.

New Delhi-based sources, who are closely monitoring the development, told Odisha Bytes: “It’s 50-50 now. The decision can go either way.” The clarity is expected to be achieved on Monday, the sources added.

While the top leadership of both parties had last week, more or less, given the green signal to a pre-poll pact, adverse reports from the ground, seat-sharing difficulties and reluctance of state BJP leaders are believed to be acting as roadblocks on the path to ‘remarriage’ of the former allies.

The fact that a BJP delegation, including its state president Manmohan Samal, general secretary (organisation) Manas Mohanty, state election in-charge Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, election co-incharge Lata Usendi and party national spokesperson Sambit Patra, reached New Delhi on Sunday evening to meet their national leaders has further lent credence to speculation that both parties are trying hard to remove the obstacles preventing a tie-up for 2024 elections. Samal, Tomar and Usendi told journalists that an alliance in Odisha is not on the table, but some view it as time buying tactics to pacify those resenting it.

Following the electoral agreement with TDP in Andhra Pradesh on Friday, the BJP top bosses are reportedly keen to have BJD back in the NDA fold. Although the top leaderships of both sides are mum over the possible alliance, discussions within the two outfits suggest the central BJP is yet to convince its state rank and file that a coalition with BJD would be beneficial for the saffron brigade. The BJP reportedly wants to fight in 14 Lok Sabha and 56 Vidhan Sabha constituencies, but the BJD is said to have offered a maximum 13 MP and 42 MLA seats. Odisha has 21 parliament and 147 Assembly segments.

“We stand to lose more than we gain. 2024 is an opportunity to make it big in Odisha. We will do better than what they are offering to us if we contest on our own. If we let go of it, we might regret later,” a senior BJP leader pointed out, adding, “In case we align with the BJD, the Congress would grow in the state at our expense.”

This sentiment is echoed by several state BJP leaders, compelling the party spin doctors to take a relook at the pros and cons of re-entering into an alliance with the BJD after a gap of 15 years.

“The public mood was in our favour till talks about the possible coalition with BJD started. In the last few days, not only our workers but the general public has got upset with us,” noted another BJP leader.

BJD leaders, in turn, maintain it’s for the BJP to sort out their internal issues. “Can such an important political issue reach this level without the knowledge and consent of the top leadership of both parties?” a senior BJD leader said, indicating that BJP leaders at the highest level are well aware of what’s cooking and it’s the saffron party’s call to proceed or not. Adding to the suspense, Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik has kept everyone guessing by releasing a video in which he termed ‘rumours’ and ‘lies’ as the worst aspects of politics.

Speculation is also rife that Naveen might go to New Delhi soon if required to seal the deal. “If the pact is agreed upon, Union Home Minister Amit Shah (BJP) might make a trip to Odisha,” a source told Odisha Bytes.

There has been speculation that Shah might visit Bhubaneswar on March 12 or 13 but there has been no confirmation from the saffron party. The Election Commission is expected to notify this week twin polls in the state, meaning thereby the two parties have to take a final call at the earliest.

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