BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab Meets Amit Shah, Fuels Speculation Of Joining BJP In Odisha Ahead Of Elections

Bhubaneswar: Senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Bhartruhari Mahtab reportedly met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, fuelling speculation about the Cuttack MP joining Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the upcoming elections.

The six-time Lok Sabha MP was stated to have met Shah in his residence in the national capital. Both the leaders were believed to have discussed matters relating to the Rajbhasha policy of the Central government. While Shah is the president of the parliamentary committee on official language, Bhartruhari happens to be its vice-president.

However, the meeting between the two leaders has sparked speculations in political circles over the possibility of Bhartruhari joining the saffron party ahead of the polls.

Political observers feel that Bhartruhari seems to be getting closer to the BJP after getting sidelined in his party. Several events in the recent past have given rise to speculation of him possibly joining the saffron party at an ‘opportune’ moment. Analysts are of the view that he has been away from the BJD’s core leadership for quite some time now.

The BJP too seems to have developed a soft corner for the veteran leader from Odisha who also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2023. Though Bhartruhari had then described the meeting with Modi as just a courtesy call, he is stated to be moving closer to the saffron party.

There also is uncertainty over whether BJD would nominate him for the seventh consecutive time from the politically sensitive Cuttack seat.

It may be recalled that Amit Shah was the chief guest at the 75th anniversary celebration of Odia daily Prajatantra, which Bhartruhari edits, at Cuttack in 2022. His apparent growing proximity with the BJP leadership has led to speculation over the possibility of his switching sides. Union Minister Anurag Thakur attended the function of the newspaper held recently.

Bhartruhari, son of former Chief Minister late Harekrushna Mahtab, has already earned a name for himself with his debates in Parliament. He also held the position of the leader of the BJD in Lok Sabha.

On a couple of occasions, Bhartruhari had stoked a controversy by writing editorials or making statements questioning Naveen Patnaik government’s decisions and BJD’s functioning.

The veteran leader has won the Cuttack Lok Sabha constituency six times consecutively since 1998 after the BJD was formed following the death of legendary leader and former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik. Though he has maintained the image of a statesman nationally, groupism within the ruling BJD’s local unit in Cuttack appeared to have affected his support base.

On the other hand, speculations are also rife that Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw may be fielded by the BJP from Cuttack Lok Sabha constituency in the upcoming elections. Vaishnaw has already been making tours of the constituency and attending several events and public meetings. The Minister visited Athagarh, Tigiria and Badamba areas in Cuttack recently and attended several meetings, besides hearing public grievances and providing immediate solutions.

Political analyses interpret Bhartruhari’s meeting with the PM last year and now with Shah in different ways. While some feel that the exercise may just be a bargaining chip to exert pressure on the BJD leadership for picking him again from the Cuttack seat, others are of the opinion that the Lok Sabha MP is probably trying for a berth in the saffron party.

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