House post theories follow Naveen-Modi meeting

Officially, Patnaik’s meeting with Modi was about special category status for his state

  • Published 12.06.19, 5:51 AM
  • Updated 12.06.19, 5:51 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Modi with Patnaik in New Delhi on Tuesday (PTI)

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, strengthening speculation that the BJP might offer the Lok Sabha deputy Speaker’s post to the Biju Janata Dal, disregarding the claims of oldest ally Shiv Sena.

Officially, Patnaik’s meeting with Modi was about special category status for his state and central assistance to tackle the devastation caused by Cyclone Fani last month.

But BJP sources didn’t rule out the possibility of the two leaders unofficially discussing the deputy Speaker’s post.

Patnaik, who spoke to reporters after the meeting, skipped any mention of the post. “I have requested the Prime Minister to grant special status to Odisha,” he said.

“As you know, we have been hit by a recent cyclone which has done a great deal of damage. I have asked for Rs 5,000 crore for rehabilitation and restoration work.”

The Odisha chief minister is in Delhi for a Niti Aayog meeting on June 15.

The BJP, too, remained tightlipped on any possible offer of the House post to the BJD. Party sources said the decision would be taken at the highest level, meaning Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, but didn’t reject the idea outright.

Senior leaders felt that politically it would be a smart move and not hamper the party’s efforts to emerge as a principal challenger in Odisha.

“Our fight against the BJD will not suffer because of the deputy Speaker’s post. It’s a parliamentary convention that the deputy Speaker’s post goes to the Opposition and the BJD will make a good choice,” a BJP leader said. “The Congress is virtually dead in Odisha and post Naveen, the BJP can easily be the ruling party. The only thing we have to do is remain active on the ground with people’s issues.”

A friendly gesture to the BJD, this leader said, would only send a positive message about the BJP in Odisha.

For many years now, the deputy Speaker’s post in the Lok Sabha has been offered to an Opposition party. In its first term, the BJP had given the post to the AIADMK. This time the AIADMK had aligned with the BJP but won just one Lok Sabha seat.

The BJP is firmly against giving the post to the principal Opposition, the Congress, which has increased the likelihood of the BJD getting it.

Other parties, such as the DMK, Trinamul Congress, BSP and the Samajwadi Party, don’t suit the BJP, the party leaders said.

The BJP’s Maharashtra ally, the Shiv Sena, has already staked claim to the post. Sena leader Sanjay Raut had recently visited Delhi and told the BJP it was his party’s “rightful demand”.

“The BJD may be a friend but the party fought the election against the NDA. How can the post be given to the BJD?” Raut had asked.

BJP leaders say the Sena’s demand for the post is linked to the tussle over the chief minister’s chair in Maharashtra. Assembly polls in the state are scheduled later this year and the Sena is eyeing the chief minister’s post.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections the bickering allies had buried their differences and agreed to contest the polls together.

For the Assembly polls, it was agreed they would contest an equal number of seats after accommodating the allies.

“Whoever wins more seats gets the chief minister’s chair,” one BJP leader said.

The Sena, this leader added, wants the chief minister’s chair to be shared, two-and-a-half years for each party, and was trying to use the deputy Speaker’s post as a bargaining tool.