Capping nine months of high voltage political drama and speculation, Baijayant Panda aka Jay Panda formally joined the BJP at a modest ceremony in the presence of heavyweight minister Dharmendra Pradhan and the party’s Odisha overseer Arun Singh. Panda later met BJP national president Amit Shah at the party headquarters in Delhi.
Though Panda had deserted the BJD nine months back, he dithered on redrawing his political career map. Speculation was rife that he will join BJP but his meetings with the Congress leaders in Odisha tweaked the story. Panda, known to be a shrewd political manipulator kept the pundits and his ex party leaders playing the guessing game, deftly dodging queries on his political future. The only point he bared was that he was holding profuse consultations with his friends across the political spectrum.
Even today when he was inducted into the BJP, Panda made no bones of his decision. His move, the erstwhile BJD MP said, stemmed from nine months of introspection and widespread consultations with colleagues and the public.
“I have admired Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and direction in which he is taking the country and also BJP president Amit Shah’s leadership that has made this party not just the largest in the country, but the largest and the most effective party in the whole world,” Panda said.
“In the early years, when it (BJD was an ally of the BJP, there were certain norms that had been followed which have been lost in the recent years,” he added.
Panda censured the ruling BJD in Odisha for failing to contain the rising crime graph against women & children. Odisha offered a scene of deteriorating law & order and rampant corruption and the BJP was the only glimmer of hope, opined he.
Panda, who won from Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency in 2014 on BJD ticket, was first suspended in January last year over charges of anti party activities. He subsequently quit the party as well as Lok Sabha in May and June last year following serious differences with chief minister. The tipping point came when BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik or any of his party men did a no show at the funeral of late Bansidhar Panda, an industrialist known to be a close aide of Biju Patnaik, Naveen’s legendary father.
The articulate and widely networked MP became the most visible face of BJD’s dissenters in mid 2017 after he called for ‘introspection’ in the wake of BJP’s sterling performance in 2017 panchayat elections. Since Modi became PM, Panda has been heaping praise on him while questioning Patnaik’s working style.
The BJP has identified Odisha as one of the priority states ahead of the polls. The assembly polls and the parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously, and the BJP hopes that Panda will brighten its prospects, especially in coastal Odisha.