Naveen keeps options open

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 10.03.09
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Bhubaneswar, March 10: Naveen Patnaik’s BJD today said it was not part of any bloc or nascent third front and ruled out tying up with the Left before the April-May parliamentary elections, keeping options open for post-poll manoeuvres.

It also sounded noncommittal on a state-level pre-election alliance with the Left, NCP and the JMM, which have extended support to the party-led government in Orissa for tomorrow’s trust vote.

The Naveen government was reduced to a minority after the BJP withdrew support barely an hour after Saturday’s failed seat-share talks snapped their 11-year partnership.

Asked whether his party was in the BJP-led NDA or in the UPA headed by the Congress, or a third front, BJD secretary-general and chief spokesperson Damodar Rout said: “Neither of the three.”

Asked whether the BJD was thinking of a pre-poll alliance with the Left, NCP and the JMM, Rout said “as of now”, there was “no question of any pre-poll alliance with the above parties”.

“Seeking their support does not mean that we will make alliance with them,” he said. But there might be seat adjustments, he added. He also didn’t rule out a post-poll alliance in the state.

Although the BJD leader said the Congress would be his party’s main competitor, he ruled out any realignment with the BJP in the future.

“They (BJP leaders) betrayed us. They could have waited for any rapprochement after the failure of seat-share talks. But they rushed to Raj Bhavan announcing their withdrawal of support,” Rout said, countering the BJP’s allegation of “breach of trust”.

Rout also played down the possible impact of a high-voltage campaign by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. He said the BJP leader didn’t belong to Orissa. “Fielding Modi as the party’s star campaigner shows the BJP lacks a strong leader in Orissa to match Naveen Patnaik.”

Rout said he was confident his party would sail through tomorrow’s trust vote. “Our government is absolutely safe. On Sunday, the chief minister had submitted a list of 76 MLAs to the governor. We expect more legislators will back us during the vote on the floor of the Assembly tomorrow.”

The BJD, which has 61 members including the Speaker, needs the support of 13 more in the 147-member House.

It has already got the support of four JMM legislators and two NCP members. One MLA each from the CPI and the CPM has also offered support, besides seven Independents.

BJP loss

BJP legislators continued to switch loyalties to Naveen even as the party performed a “Hanuman chalisa recital” at its state headquarters to make it “strong and powerful”.

Senior legislator Mahesh Sahoo resigned this morning citing “neglect” and announced that he was joining the BJD. Earlier, two MLAs — Brundaban Majhi and Dhaneswar Majhi — had resigned from the party and pledged support to the BJD.