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Naveen fires at twin enemies

- CM speech fuels talk of non-BJP, non-Cong govt at Centre

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 26: Chief minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik today lashed out at two major national parties and underscored the need for installing a “stable, transparent and secular” government at the Centre.

Naveen’s speech fuelled speculation about the emergence of a non-Congress and non-BJP alternative ahead of the 2014 elections.

“Corruption of the Congress and the communal politics of the BJP have weakened our country. Only a stable, transparent and secular government can fulfil hopes and aspirations of the people. Under the present circumstances, that is the only alternative and the BJD sees this possibility,” said Naveen, addressing his party’s foundation day function here.

Leaving no one in doubt that he meant business, the chief minister exhorted party leaders to start work in the right earnest to ensure the BJD’s victory in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as each seat was going to count. “We need to win more Lok Sabha seats, so that we emerge stronger at the Centre and can fight for our just demands,” said Naveen. Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the BJD had won 14 and its ally CPI one, conceding six seats to the Congress.

Coming three days after his meeting with CPI veteran A.B. Bardhan, the statement of Naveen, who has been pursuing a policy of equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP, is likely to accelerate the process of bringing non-Congress and non-BJP parties closer.

The ball was set rolling during Naveen’s tete-a-tete with Bardhan at Naveen Nivas here on Sunday, when the two leaders admitted to the increased craving for a change among the people in the wake of Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) fairytale rise. Together they had also sought to downplay the much-hyped Modi factor touted by the BJP sending out a message that forces opposed to the BJP and the Congress needed to unite.

This was not the first occasion when Naveen was seen bonding with Left party leaders with whom his rapport began in the 2009 elections, which they had fought as allies. His ties with the Left became stronger when his party took part in the October 30 rally against communalism in Delhi. The rally was also attended by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with whom Naveen enjoys cordial relations, their friendship having been cemented further after Nitish dumped the BJP earlier this year much in the same manner as his Odisha counterpart four years ago.

Sources said Naveen was also in touch with other like-minded chief ministers, including J. Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu and Mamata Bannerjee of Bengal. Earlier, he has made common cause with these leaders on sensitive issues such as the National Counter Terrorism Centre and the FDI in retail. Jayalalithaa was also his ally in backing the candidature of P.A. Sangma for the office of the President last year.

Naveen has been casting his net wide and welcoming potential allies with open arms. Last month, YSR Congress leader Jagan Mohan Reddy called on him at Naveen Nivas, seeking his support to stall the Centre’s bid to divide Andhra Pradesh.

Though the two leaders denied having discussed the possibility of a new front challenging both the Congress and the BJP during their one-on-one that lasted half an hour, sources said Naveen took a rain check on the issue from his interlocutor.

However, even as Naveen seems keen on putting together an alternative front, Congress and BJP leaders have reacted sharply to his statement dubbing them as “corrupt” and “communal”.

Dismissing the charge against his party, veteran Congress leader and Union minister Srikant Jena said the chief minister was seeking cheap popularity by making such statements. “Coming elections will prove whether the Congress is corrupt or the BJD,” he said.

BJP vice-president and former Union minister Jual Oram slammed Naveen for being hypocritical. “Did the BJD not know that we were ‘communal’ when they entered into an alliance with us in 1998?” he asked mockingly. “I wish to remind him that together we ruled the state for over nine years,” the leader added.