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BJP split over mega alliance

- Coalition plan to stop Naveen run

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 23: The repeated assertions of Odisha Jan Morcha (OJM) leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra about the emergence of a “grand political alliance” to checkmate Naveen Patnaik-led BJD and the Congress has sparked off speculation about BJP becoming part of such a move.

Sources said opinion within BJP was divided on the issue.

“Not everyone in the party likes the idea because in the past we have had a bad experience with the BJD. However, there are others who think it to be a viable option. Their overriding concern seems to be evolving an alternative to Naveen,” said a senior BJP functionary.

Sources said that Mohapatra and Ama Odisha leader Soumya Ranjan Patnaik had met senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley recently to discuss the possibility of an alliance. They were advised to get in touch with the state leaders.

Mohapatra, who was the first to moot the idea of an alliance, said he was hopeful of getting the BJP on board.

“Seat sharing talks with the BJP should begin soon. We are looking at a larger non-Congress and non-BJD alliance,” said the Rajya Sabha member. Smaller outfits such as Samruddha Odisha are likely to join in.

Sources said though Mohapatra, who treats Naveen as his enemy No.1, had been in touch with some BJP leaders in Delhi in his attempt to cobble together an alliance in Odisha, his enthusiasm is not shared by many in the party’s central leadership who, given a choice, would like to revive their alliance with the BJD.

“For them Naveen, given his popularity, can be a much better ally both in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections. The truth is that with Narendra Modi becoming the party’s prime ministerial candidate, they are more concerned about Lok Sabha results,” said a senior leader.

The state BJP leadership, however, may have an altogether different perception of the situation as it exists. With a majority of state leaders still bitter towards the chief minister for the way he humiliated them by breaking the party’s 11-year-old alliance on the eve of 2009 elections, they would rather join hands with his enemy than humour Naveen in any way.

“Besides, given the progressively eroding support base of the BJP in the state, a tie-up with OJM or Ama Odisha may not be a bad idea,” said a leader.

State BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari, however, refused to speculate on such a possibility.

“As it is, our experience of the alliance has not been good. My advice to people floating smaller parties is that they should jump onto the bigger bandwagon (read BJP),” said Pujari.

However, sources said debate over the issue within the BJP is likely to intensify with the party gearing up for Modi’s second Odisha rally, which is likely to be held at Sambalpur in the second week of March.

“Things will become clearer by then. State leaders may take it up with Modiji and other central leaders accompanying him on the trip,” said a BJP functionary.


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