BHUBANESWAR: Continuing with the Biju Janata Dal's policy of maintaining an equal distance from Congress and BJP, chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday announced support for UPA vice-presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi to silence the murmurs of discontentment within the party following his endorsement of NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
While Naveen's support for Gandhi's candidature has evoked sharp criticism from the BJP, Congress has welcomed the decision. However, the decision to support UPA's vice-presidential candidate does not seem to be based on consensus in the BJD.
The party supremo announced support for Gandhi after considering all aspects, said BJD vice president Debi Prasad Mishra and added the decision was taken after discussion with senior leaders.
However, Odisha BJP president Basant Panda questioned Naveen's decision and wondered what the CM was indicating at by supporting the candidature of a person who signed the mercy petition in favour of Yakub Menon. Panda also alleged about a secret deal between the BJD and Congress which the people of Odisha know.
Though leader of the opposition parties Narasingha Mishra welcomed the decision of the chief minister, he said it would not correct the blunder done by the BJD in announcing support for NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind who is a RSS man and BJP leader.
Earlier, the chief minister told the media, "The BJD will support Gopal Krishna Gandhi." BJD parliamentary party spokesman Kalikesh Singhdeo said, "The chief minister has proved that the BJD has been maintaining equal distance from the Congress and the BJP."
The chief minister had said in 2012 that Gandhi was an "old and valued friend. We were friends even when I was not in politics".