Political Times

What’s cooking in Naveen’s BJD think tank after 19 poll?

BJD supremo and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s muted reaction to the Union Budget created quite a flutter in the political circles. That the budget for 2019-20 drilled holes in aam aadmi’s pocket by raising duties on crude oil and thus making both petrol and diesel expensive did not elicit even a murmur of protest from the incumbent BJD.
The party’s stand is stupefying after the people endowed Naveen and his party with a colossal mandate for the fifth term in succession. The party’s reticence is appalling especially when a move by the BJP led government at the Centre has roiled the common man.
Instead of touching the topic of pricier diesel and petrol, Naveen chose to assail the Centre over diminishing allocations in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and national highways. He extolled the Budget for hike in allocations for key sectors.
The Budget reaction seemed like a stage managed exercise delivered with clinical precision. The reaction, though was unsurprising given the BJD’s deepening proximity with the BJP in the aftermath of keenly fought 2019 polls, especially the elections to Parliamentary constitiuencies where the BJP wrested eight seats, truncating the ruling party’s tally to 12 in the Lok Sabha. It was barely three months back when both the BJP ad BJD rained abuse on each in the course of a frenzied campaigning in the run up to polls.
All that rancour seems to have evaporated now as the two parties are striking deals like never before. Strategically, Naveen has not joined the Narendra Modi government formally to ensure he does not outrage the people of Odisha. But, his party has been backing the BJP led coalition on almost every issue even it means inimical to Odisha’s interests.
Take for instance the contentious Polavaram project. The regional BJD has been at the forefront of high decibel protests, condemning the Centre’s move to grant approvals for building a large dam that threatens to submerge scores of villages and hollow out existence of the people living in lands not easy to commute. Such was the intensity of the BJD’s protests over Polavaram that it almost turned into a political hot potato in Odisha. Even the state level BJP leaders who were aware of the massive pitfalls of the Polavaram project were forced to suppress their real views for toeing the party line.
After the polls, the Centre has yet again revived the Polavaram project, declaring unabashedly that construction work has commenced on the dam. But the announcement did not bestir the BJD let alone sparking a considerable outrage.
BJD’s new found bonhomie with the BJP was manifested in the former’s support to Ashwini Vaishnaw, a bureaucrat turned corporate tycoon who lately joined the BJP. Naveen actually committed a blooper when he first announced that Vaishnaw was BJD’s candidate, later he issued a rejoinder. Naveen gifting a Rajya Sabha berth to a BJP nominee was seen by the Opposition as a clandestine deal struck between the BJP and BJD to hoodwink the people of Odisha. Never has it happened in the course of politics that a party gifts a Parliament seat to its sworn opponent.

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