BHUBANESWAR: Exchanges between the BJD and the BJP have continued to be adversarial on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sixth visit to the State on Saturday while observers have been left guessing about the purpose behind it. Is it (the visit) aimed at countering BJD’s mega Mahanadi Suraksha Abhijan or an attempt by the BJP to gain a foothold in coastal Odisha where it has a very limited base - only in a couple of constituencies - before the 2019 polls?
Post Karnataka, speculation over the stand to be adopted by Modi vis-a-vis the Naveen Patnaik Government has reached a feverish pitch and the public meeting at Cuttack would provide a glimpse of BJP’s way forward in the State. As he reads out his report card to mark the completion of four years of BJP Government at the Centre at the Bali Jatra Ground in Cuttack, all eyes will be on Modi to see if he goes soft on Naveen who had refrained from attending the swearing-in-ceremony of H D Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, or will he be critical of the State Government like BJP boss Amit Shah has been scathing in the past?
Since the BJD has made it amply clear that the party is not going to be part of any pre-poll alliance because of its policy of maintaining equidistance between Congress and BJP, Modi is expected to have a go at the BJD and the State Government, political pundits feel. While the BJD has adopted an aggressive tone on the Prime Minister’s two-hour visit during which he will address a public meeting on Mahanadi river bed, the BJP has also paid back in equal measure by questioning the performance of the State Government headed by the regional outfit during the last 18 years.
Odisha has remained a target State for BJP ever since the announcement of the Mission 120+ by party president Shah though it has so far failed in all its attempts, the last being the thrashing it received at the Bijepur by-poll at the hands of the BJD nominee. After that, the saffron party went into a shell. A hint of the approach to be adopted by Modi can be had from the fact that the BJP campaign against Naveen has gained momentum again after remaining dormant for a couple of months when the party top brass was preoccupied with Karnataka elections.
Ahead of Modi’s visit, the party released a charge-sheet listing 36 mega scams against the Government, while Union Minister Jual Oram also tried to attack BJD for having a secret pact with Congress. It launched a massive campaign of sexual assault on minor girls, deteriorating law and order situation in the State and questioned the ‘doublespeak’ of Naveen on Mahanadi river water dispute.
Meanwhile, BJD’s public meeting at Paradip marking the conclusion of Mahanadi Suraksha Abhijan saw the Chief Minister and other leaders lashing out at the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre over the Mahanadi river water issue, and this gives an indication over the deteriorating relations with BJP.