Central, state leadership of BJP not on same page on alliance in Odisha

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, Mar 1:

Notwithstanding the reluctance of the Odisha state leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the central leadership of the party is keen to stitch up an alliance with fringe political parties in the state. Though opinion polls are predicting a considerable share of seats for the BJP across the country, the leadership feels it needs to fish for potential allies, at least in Odisha.

KV Singhdeo greeting Narendra Modi during the Feb 11 rally in Bhubaneswar
KV Singhdeo greeting Narendra Modi during the Feb 11 rally in Bhubaneswar

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and Odisha Pravari Chandan Mitra are scheduled to visit Odisha on Monday in an effort to persuade the state leaders to agree to an alliance with some of the smaller parties. 

The central leadership is of the view that the BJP cannot win too many Lok Sabha and Assembly seats on its own though it believes that it may increase its vote share in the state due to the Modi wave it believes is sweeping the country.

During his visit here last week, Chandan Mitra discussed with Ama Odisha president Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and Utkal Bharat president Kharavela Swain the prospect of an alliance, which did not go down well with the state leadership.

The state leadership is particularly peeved about the central leadership’s keenness to forge an alliance with Odisha Jan Morcha (OJM), led by Pyarimohan Mohapatra, who was instrumental in breaking up the BJP-BJD alliance just before 2009 elections.

“Because of BJP’s low support base in Odisha, a moderate vote swing in its favour may not have much of an impact in terms of actual gains in terms of seats. So, there is a need to have an alliance with other parties to keep the Naveen Patnaik government away from the state and score well in the Lok Sabha polls,” said a senior BJP leader.

He cited BJP’s poor performance in the recently concluded civic elections and the difficulty in finding suitable candidates at many places to justify the overtures to other parties.

However, the statement of BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari indicates that the party is having a rethink over a possible alliance. “In politics all options are open, particularly at the time of elections. Since the country is keen to see Narendra Modi as the next prime minister, we are keen to tap all possible sources to add to our vote base,” Pujari said.

However, other leaders argued that the party can emerge victorious on its own as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has a hold over the young, new and floating voters, who were mostly with BJD in the state during the last three elections.

The party has only 15% share in the state, which will be not enough for it to win the elections on its own. Besides, 93 out of the 145 BJP candidates who contested the Assembly elections in 2009 had lost their deposits. The party has also bitten the dust in the panchayat and civic polls. It even failed to open its account in various municipalities.

“In order to increase the vote percentage, the party should forge an alliance with other political parties. AOP can take a percentage of votes away from the Congress while Pyarimohan too can eat into some percentage of BJD votes. Thus, there is certainly a case for an alliance,” said a political analyst.

That the Congress has a traditional support base in Odisha is proved from the fact that the vote share of the party has hovered around 30 per cent in the last three general elections in the state – 2000, 2004, 2009 – though it has been out of power for the last 15 years.

In the last general election (2009), the party won 6 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 27 of the 147 assembly seats at stake.

In contrast, BJD, which had a 39 per cent vote share, was victorious in 14 Lok Sabha seats and 103 assembly seats. BJP with 15 per cent vote share had drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha poll and bagged only 6 assembly seats.

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