A section of the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha is cut up with a senior Lok Sabha MP for his "close relationship" with the BJP, leading to speculations that he could be used as a key player in a feared split in the regional outfit which has been in power in the state for over 17 years.
According to the BJD sources, the MP's continued closeness to a Union minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet has sparked intense debate with the regional party that the former could even break away, along with few MLAs from the parent organisation, especially when he has been sidelined by the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
The sources said that the BJD's reverses in the recently concluded Panchayat elections could be attributed to the factional feud within the ruling party.
With the Congress almost decimated in Odisha, BJD sources believe that the BJP's unprecedented performance in the local polls could mark the "beginning of a slow but steady inroad in the state politics”, which, until recently, was firmly in Patnaik's grip.
The BJD MP who belongs to a top industrialist family of Odisha, is in touch with the Central leadership of the BJP, and his overtures in recent months suggest that he may soon shift his loyalty to BJP.
Reports recently appearing in a section of the national media suggest that this MP has been highly appreciative of the BJP’s victory in the Assembly elections in the five states, as well as the policies of the Modi government.
The speculation of the most vocal face of the BJD in the national capital switching sides is clear from the fact that he has been praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP in his social media interactions.
According to a senior journalist from Odisha who has been covering the Parliament, this BJD MP was seen joining the BJP MPs to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the floor of the house this week, when the Prime Minister reached in Lok Sabha for the first time after the massive victory of the BJP in the recent Assembly elections.
A Done Deal?
According to highly placed sources close to this BJD MP, he may be offered two options to switch loyalty – to be projected as the next Chief Minister of Odisha, or to be inducted as a minister at the Centre through the Rajya Sabha route.
The huge success of the BJP in the panchayat elections is being clearly attributed to Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who also belongs to Odisha. Pradhan is being projected as the alternative to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the upcoming 2019 Assembly elections. In this scenario, a BJD MP may not be acceptable to the state BJP leaders as the Chief Ministerial candidate.
The Rajya Sabha route to become a minister at the Centre could be a possibility, considering BJP’s massive win in the recently concluded Assembly elections in the five states.
Should BJD Be Worried?
The MP who represents one politically significant coastal districts of Odisha in the Lok Sabha, has reportedly been sidelined by the BJD President and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, according to the political analysts of Odisha.
The parliamentary constituency represented by this MP has seven Assembly segments, out of which, the BJD has four MLAs. But in the recently concluded Panchayat elections, the BJP has made massive inroads winning 10 of the 32 Zilla Parishad seats. According to the local party leaders, the setback to the ruling party in one of the strongholds is being attributed to the open feud between the MP and few local leaders.
Few months ago, this MP was seen in an open spat with a former minister from his Parliamentary constituency at an event attended by the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
According to the political analysts from Odisha, the BJD may have to strategise its plan to prevent the BJP from causing a split within the ruling party’s ranks as this MP enjoys the support of around 20 MLAs. In the run up to the 2019 elections, the MLAs may follow the suit led by this MP as BJP is being seen as a formidable force to dethrone Naveen Patnaik after close to two decades of uninterrupted rule.