BJD recalls JP for NDA vote

Jayaprakash Narayan and Naveen Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: The BJD invoked the Jayaprakash Narayan legacy to justify its support for NDA nominee and JDU MP Harivansh Narayan Singh as Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson.

The choice of Singh over Congress candidate B.K. Hariprasad has raised many eyebrows as it violated the BJD's policy of maintaining equidistance from the two major national parties.

Claiming that the party was born out of the erstwhile Janata parivar, a BJD leader said the JDU was ideologically closer to it.

However, political observers feel that the stance will help Naveen buy temporary peace with the BJP, which has been mounting a sustained attack on him.

"This is not Naveen's first such move. His party had supported BJP candidate Ram Nath Kovind in last year's presidential election, but a month later his MPs were told to vote for Opposition-backed Gopal Krishna Gandhi for Vice-President," said political observer Anand Mishra.

Sources said Naveen was well aware that the BJP was growing in the state having won 297 zila parishad seats in last year's panchayat elections, a quantum leap from 36 in 2012. Hence, he does not want adversarial relations with its central leaders, but at the same time he is keen to ensure that the Congress, which is technically still the largest party in the state with 16 MLAs to BJP's 10, remains a force.

"A triangular contest in the general elections suits Naveen as it ensures the division of votes of his rivals," said Mishra.

While state Congress leaders attacked Naveen for voting with the NDA, the BJD justified its stand asserting that it had voted for a JDU leader as the two parties shared a common political heritage.

"Besides, Hariprasad had been critical of the BJD and its government as state Congress minder," said a BJD release.

Party spokesperson P.K. Deb asserted that Thursday's move had in no way compromised BJD's policy of equidistance. He added that it would be wrong to link BJD's support for Harivansh with the party's stance in the 2019 elections.

"That will be something entirely different," he said.

Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is widely perceived to be BJP's chief ministerial candidate in the next elections, also ruled out any possibility of an alliance between his party and the BJD in 2019.

"We will contest the next polls on our own," he said.

Former minister and Congress veteran Srikant Jena described Naveen's policy of equidistance as a drama staged to fool the people.

"Their vote in the Rajya Sabha has thoroughly exposed their links with the BJP and the RSS," Jena said.


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