In Opposition space for first time, Naveen Patnaik may rethink BJD’s 'equidistance' strategy

Left with no representation in the Lok Sabha after suffering a shock defeat at the hands of BJP, the BJD has started exploring ways to rebuild the party.
Naveen Patnaik (File photo | PTI)
Naveen Patnaik (File photo | PTI)

BHUBANESWAR: After drawing a blank in the Lok Sabha elections, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik may have to revisit his strategy of maintaining an equal distance from the NDA and INDIA bloc at the national level.

Left with no representation in the Lok Sabha after suffering a shock defeat at the hands of BJP, the BJD has started exploring ways to rebuild the party. Naveen himself held meetings with party’s elected as well as defeated leaders in the last two days. Since he will also be in the Opposition leader’s space for the first time, the regional outfit will have to devise its political positioning to attack the BJP.

Will this prompt the party to change its 'equidistance' stance and support the INDIA bloc in Parliament? In this context, the Delhi visit of BJD leader and Naveen's close aide VK Pandian has assumed significance.

Sources said Pandian is likely to meet leaders of both NDA and INDIA bloc at New Delhi. But there has been no formal announcement by the BJD in this regard. During the last decade, the BJD supported the BJP-led NDA at the Centre though it was not formally a part of the coalition. All the critical legislations of the BJP-led NDA had the BJD’s backing.

Naveen Patnaik (File photo | PTI)
Naveen Patnaik reviews poll loss as VK Pandian leaves for Delhi

However, now that it has been given the Opposition status, the BJD in all likelihood will renew its demand for special category state (SCS) to put the BJP government on the back foot. Incidentally, JD(U) and TDP have been demanding SCS status for Bihar and Andhra Pradesh respectively, and both the parties will now play an important role in formation of the NDA government at the Centre.

A senior BJD leader said the demand for SCS status for Odisha will remain top on the agenda of the party in coming days. The party will continue to raise the SCS status and revision of coal royalty demands. BJD boss Naveen had also mentioned this recently while replying to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on his health condition during election meetings in the state.

Party sources further said the BJD can still play a significant role at the Central level as it has nine members in the Rajya Sabha. In the current political situation, the party’s support to any bloc, be it NDA or INDIA, in the Upper House will be crucial. "A formal decision in this regard will be taken at the opportune time," he said.

However, these are early days to predict what stance the BJD supremo will take on switching an alliance. The state Congress too is not forthcoming about the issue clearly. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Sarat Pattanayak told this paper that nothing formal has taken place in this regard so far.

Naveen Patnaik (File photo | PTI)
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