The Hindu (Mumbai)

After Vaishnaw’s election to RS, speculatio­n grows about BJD-BJP camaraderi­e

PM’s likely presence in Odisha on March 5, the day BJD has planned celebratio­ns of Biju Patnaik’s birth anniversar­y, fuels talk about the ruling party coordinati­ng with BJP ahead of elections

- Satyasunda­r Barik

mid growing signals of Bharatiya Janata Party and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) coordinati­ng their future activities, the regional party has announced elaborate celebratio­ns on the occasion of the 108th birth anniversar­y of the legendary Biju Patnaik, father of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, on March 5. Incidental­ly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to speak at a public gathering in Jajpur district on the same day.

The camaraderi­e between the two parties was on view in the recent Rajya Sabha elections, with BJD deciding not to put up a third candidate in order to ensure the election of Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw even though the party had the numbers. Odisha’s ruling party announced that it was supporting the candidatur­e of Mr. Vaishnaw in the larger interest of the State.

Mr. Modi’s likely presence in Odisha on March 5 has further fuelled speculatio­n about closeness bet

Aween the two estranged alliance partners. After formation of the BJD in 1997 following the death of Biju Patnaik, the regional party had chosen BJP as its ally and ran a coalition government until 2009. AntiChrist­ian riots in Kandhamal district in 2008 triggered fissures and the BJD parted ways with the BJP, going on to contest the concurrent 2009 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections separately.

However, over the years, the regional party has always lent support to the BJP in Parliament for passage of Bills or election of candidates to constituti­onal positions such as President and VicePresid­ent. Mr. Vaishnaw’s election on February 20 is only the latest instance of such cooperatio­n.

While a senior BJP leader told The Hindu that the two parties could even stitch a formal alliance before election dates are announced, other leaders refused to speak on the issue and said they did not have informatio­n on this.

On Thursday, the BJD leadership asked party cadres to celebrate Biju Patnaik’s birth anniversar­y in all constituen­cies. “All elected public representa­tives, party’s officebear­ers and those who love Biju Patnaik would remember the great statesman, freedom fighter and symbol of selfless service and hold public meetings. His contributi­on to the developmen­t of Odisha would also be discussed,” party chief and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik instructed in a signed letter.

The party also prepared a text for all members to read aloud, invoking Biju Patnaik and vowing to work relentless­ly for making the State prosperous and strong. The party also decided to observe April 17, his death anniversar­y, on a grand scale, even as it reiterated its demand for Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, for Biju Patnaik.

 ?? FILE PHOTO ?? In recent years, Naveen Patnaik’s BJD has always lent support to the BJP in Parliament.
FILE PHOTO In recent years, Naveen Patnaik’s BJD has always lent support to the BJP in Parliament.

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