Bhubaneswar, May 24: The BJD today reiterated its oft-repeated stance that it would maintain equal distance from both the BJD-led NDA and the Congress. But at the same time, it said the party would have a “positive attitude” towards the NDA government at the Centre and would not hesitate to extend “issue-based support” in the larger interest of Odisha and the nation.
The BJD, an erstwhile constituent of NDA, today made its official position clear at a meeting of its MPs from both the Houses of Parliament. At the meeting presided by BJD president Naveen Patnaik, the parliamentary party elected Cuttack Lok Sabha member Bhartruhari Mahtab and Rajya Sabha member Kalpataru Das as the leaders of their respective Houses.
The party also announced that former minister and legislator from Sonepur, Niranjan Pujari, would be the next Assembly Speaker.
The party’s stance that it would have a “positive attitude” towards the Modi government appeared to be a calculated one, guided by political expediency.
The party’s new spokesperson Kalikesh Singh Deo said: “We will have a positive attitude (towards the new government at the Centre.) We may extend issue-based support to the Centre, if it is in the interest of the state. We will certainly extend our support to those who will work for the greater interest of the state and the nation.”
The statement dashes the possibility of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamul Congress and the BJD forming a separate block in the Lok Sabha and playing the role of an effective Opposition.
“As of now, Naveen babu is not in a mood to adopt a confrontationist approach towards the BJP government. If the next government is favourable towards Odisha and its causes, why should we oppose them? In the larger interest of the state, Naveen babu has kept the option open,” said a senior leader of the party.
BJD’s parliamentary party spokesperson and Kendrapara Lok Sabha member Baijayant Panda said: “Though we will have a positive attitude, we will certainly maintain an independent stand on various issues. We will vote keeping the interest of the state as well as the nation in mind.”
The BJD’s ambivalent stance stems from the fact that it had been demanding special category status for the state.
“It is going to be a tough time for the BJP in Odisha. The party had promised to fight for the special category status for Odisha. If the central government remains non-committal, it will boomerang on its state unit. Naveen babu has pushed the ball into the BJP’s court.”
The BJD had severed its decade-long alliance with the BJP in 2009 shortly before the Lok Sabha elections and had returned to power on its own.
Former minister and Sonepur MLA Niranjan Pujari has filed his nomination papers for the post of the Speaker. Pujari’s name was proposed by Naveen and seconded by parliamentary affairs minister Bikram Keshari Arukh.
Sources said Pujari would be formally declared elected on Monday.
Fifty-three-year old Pujari was re-elected this time from the Sonepur Assembly segment for the second consecutive time. Earlier, he had represented Binika twice. Pujari, a law graduate, is a known face in west Odisha and hails from Sonepur district, earlier part of the undivided Balangir district.
After BJD’s A.U. Singh Deo lost the elections, the party has inducted Jogendra Behera from the undivided Balangir district into the cabinet. The Congress is likely to make former minister Narasingha Mishra, who defeated Singh Deo, as its legislature party leader. Mishra, if elected as the legislature party leader, will become the leader of Opposition.