New Narendra Modi-Naveen Patnaik Bonhomie to Keep CBI at Bay?
The BJD has cited the JP Movement ideological link for supporting JD(U) leader Harivansh Narayan Singh in the RS.
It was a rare occasion on Thursday, 9 August 2018 – the day the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman was elected – to see the usual squabble missing from the exchanges between the spokespersons of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the primetime debates on Odia news channels.
The support of the BJD to elect National Democratic Alliance’s Harivansh Narayan Singh as the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha had forced the leaders from both the parties to cautiously choose their words against each other. The usual ‘Kendriya Abahela’ (Negligence of the Centre) jibe of the BJD and the bravado ‘to uproot the anti-people Naveen Patnaik government’ of the BJP were absent from the airwaves throughout the day.
The new Narendra-Naveen bonhomie has left the BJP leaders of Odisha utterly confused about whether to continue with the concerted attacks against the BJD government, and it has given a fillip to the Congress party, which is considered to be losing ground as the main Opposition to the BJP.
Immediately after the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman’s election, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Niranjan Patnaik tweeted that it was a ‘deal to stop CBI from exposing the BJD’s misdeeds.’
The alibi given by the BJD for its support to JD(U) leader Harivansh Narayan Singh – the common ideological origin linked to the JP Movement and the vitriolic attack of BK Hariprasad as the former state in-charge of the Congress party – smacks of a backdoor deal between the BJD and BJP.
BK Hariprasad, the former Odisha in-charge of the Congress was less vitriolic against the BJD as compared to BJP President Amit Shah, who in January 2017, called Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik a “burnt-out transformer” and asked his party workers to dump the BJD government in the Bay of Bengal at a rally in Cuttack.
CBI Fear Behind BJD Falling In Line?
With possibly no politically sound explanation coming from the BJD camp to justify its new-found bonhomie with the ruling BJP at the Centre, the Congress’ allegation of the CBI being used to silence the BJD has added more substance to the speculation.
At least four major cases are under investigation with the CBI, and in such a situation, the BJD may have too many skeletons in its cupboard to tumble, if it continued with its defiance against the BJP.
In June this year, the Union shipping ministry referred the nine-year-old case of the sinking of MV Black Rose ship off the Paradeep coast to the CBI. The Mongolian vessel sank around 5 km off the Paradeep port in September 2009. The vessel was allegedly being used for illegal export of around 23,000 tonnes of iron ore. The Opposition alleged that the Crime Branch investigation did not move forward because of the links of a former BJD minister and sitting MLA from Jajpur district, who is considered to be close to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, to the company that was allegedly shipping the iron ore with forged documents.
The Indian Oil Corporation on 18 July 2018 referred the case of allotment of two petrol pumps to the wife of gangster Syed Usman Ali alias Tito to the CBI for investigation.
The CBI investigation into the multi-thousand crore chit fund scam since 2014 has created an unrest among the several leaders within the BJD. One sitting BJD MP and two former MLAs were arrested in November 2014 in the Nabadiganta Chit Fund scam. Naveen Patnaik’s personal assistant Saroj Kumar Sahoo was also questioned by the CBI during the same period.
Sitting MLA Pravat Biswal was arrested by the CBI in September 2017 for his alleged links with the chit fund scam. In June this year, the son of the Food and Civil Supplies Minister Surya Narayan Patro was questioned by the CBI for his alleged links with the Artha Tatwa Group.
A possible CBI investigation into the thousand-crore mining scam may also spell political doom for the BJD in the state. In November 2009, the Naveen Patnaik government had cancelled the license of around 482 miners for illegal mining.
Equidistance and Mission 120 Only ‘Jumlas’ for 2019
The aggressive political slugfest in Odisha has been built around two key strategies – the BJD’s equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress and Amit Shah’s clarion call for Mission 120 seats in the 2019 Assembly elections.
Ever since the BJD broke its alliance with the BJP in the state during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, party supremo Naveen Patnaik has reiterated the equal distance policy from both the Opposition parties on several occasions. But the recent spell of actions of the BJD at the Centre indicate the opposite.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was among the first non-NDA chief ministers to extend his support to the NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind. The BJD has extended its support to demonetisation and the NRC exercise in Assam as well. While the party has cried foul over the ‘negligence of the Centre’ quite often, it did not use the opportunity during the recent debate on no-confidence motion to highlight the issue on the floor of the Lok Sabha.
BJP President Amit Shah has given a clarion call to his party workers to uproot the ‘anti-people’ Naveen Patnaik government in 2019 and secure 120 of the 147 Assembly seats in Odisha, since the BJP started an aggressive campaign against the BJD following encouraging outcome in the Panchayat polls in February 2017.
With the BJP and BJD cozying up to each other at the Centre now it becomes a testing time for the state leaders from both the parties to defend their positions. But clearly the Congress, which was almost written off as the main Opposition in the state, has got a sharp arrow in its quiver to revive its campaign against the BJD.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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