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Odisha: BJD, BJP in 2024 Poll Race With Scabbards but no Swords

The former allies have decided to go separate ways in these elections but may have left a window open for a possible post-poll alliance.
Looking for a sixth tenure, a fear of a decline in vote share may be one reason compelling BJD’s Naveen Patnaik to play the religious card by propping up the Puri Temple Corridor project.

Image Courtesy: Twitter/@bjd_odisha

It’s all over as regards the hullabaloo over an electoral alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha.

Amidst an air of fear and friendship both the parties have unstitched the likely alliance and have decided to go on their own in the coming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

Both the parties have, in a way, refused to be “coerced into compromising”. Be it BJD or BJP, both have demonstrated a sense of political equanimity during last fortnight’s talk about various permutations and combinations of pre-poll togetherness. All that is now over.

The important question now is what would be the BJD’s war strategy, as in, how will it strike a balance so that bonhomie between the two parties remains yet political subjugation to BJP does not become an irritant, as it did in the post-2019 phase.

As of now, it looks like it is going to be a battle of guts between the two former allies, as none has shown any kind of bellicose posturing as yet after parting ways. 

BJP state president Manmohan Samal, while informing the media about the separation a day ago, was all praise for the Naveen Patnaik regime, and how BJD always stood firm in its support for the Centre whenever required in the past 10 years. 

The BJD organisational secretary, Pranab Prakash Das, too, maintained a matching cordial posture for the Narendra Modi dispensation. 

In a nutshell, although BJD and BJP look like they are fighting separately with both trying to garner maximum seats in the Assembly and Lok Sabha, poll watchers do not write off the chances of a post-poll alliance, if need be.

“At the grass-root level, the BJP has, so far, a very fragile organisational network. At best, people only talk about Modi. Which shows that BJP in Odisha has no face in the state to counter BJD chief Naveen Patnaik. That is where BJP would look forward to a post-poll alliance, to compensate for any shortfall”, Rabi Das, a senior political analyst, told this writer.

If BJD wins about 100 seats out of the total 147 in the Assembly, that would give it the edge that Naveen Patnaik requires and BJP would be forced to play second fiddle.

However, BJP’s quest shall remain to expand its presence in Odisha from eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019 to at least 14 in 2024, if it is to accomplish Modi’s goal of ‘Abki Baar, 400 Paar’ (Cross 400 This Time).

It would be interesting to watch the campaign by Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, their tone and tenor when they speak about the Naveen Patnaik regime.

For BJD, the selection of candidates may prove a headache as the leadership is, perhaps, considering change of faces in several Assembly seats with winnability in mind.

This may create some heart-breaks among the BJD cadre, mainly for the ones who been MLAs for more than three terms.

The buzz is getting louder that some leaders from BJD have sounded a tone of rebellion and may either switch over to Congress or BJP.

The Congress in Odisha, which has been floundering for more than two decades wearing the inglorious tag of coming third in ranking, would be happy to welcome disgruntled BJD leaders to its fold in the hope of increasing its vote percentage from 26% to at least 30%.    

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Odisha. The views are personal.

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