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BJD ropes in Left, NCP, JMM to prop up its govt
Published on 10 Mar. 2009 12:14 AM IST
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Lok Sabha elections are living up to their promise of delivering edge-of-the-seat excitement, much like a T20 game. Within 24 hours of dealing a devastating blow to L K Advani’s prime ministerial aspirations by snapping ties with the BJP, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Sunday roped in the CPM, CPI, JMM and NCP as its allies to save its government, besides at once turning the yet-to-be-formed Third Front into a realistic contender for power. The new realignment ensured Navin Patnaik retained majority support -- 75 in the 147-strong House -- despite the divorce from the BJP which had, retaliating against the CM’s repudiation of the 11-year-old partnership, withdrawn support to the coalition government late on Saturday. With the state having simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha polls, the significance of the development went beyond what happens to the state government which has, in any case, completed its tenure. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat called it the ‘’game changer’’ and he could not have been wide off the mark. In one stroke, it has upset BJP’s plans to emerge as leader of the biggest combination post-poll, while breathing life into the fresh power project of the Third Front which, interestingly, will be formed only on Thursday. Apart from the loss of an ally which was expected to help the party win majority of the 21 Lok Sabha seats from Orissa yet again, the BJP has been set back also in terms of perception. The challenger, which was trying to recover from the unexpected loss in Delhi assembly elections, is floundering. On Sunday, it wrapped up its alliance with Shiv Sena and there were indications that it will stitch up an understanding with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar after acquiescing to his demand for at least one more seat. But its challenge suddenly seems to lack the potency that the Advani Campaign required in order to appear a realistic contender. Patnaik, with his Left-ward lurch, may appear to have married on rebound. But it was a well thought out decision from the BJD which abandoned the alliance only after it was convinced that BJP had ceased to be a profitable proposition. For Congress, however, it should generate mixed feelings. The damage to the BJP is a source of genuine joy, and the splintering of the NDA in Orissa creates larger political running room for it in the state. But the resurrection of Third Front interferes with its plans, creating the risk of Left using its new network to force the Congress to concede the leadership of the next non-BJP coalition to some other ‘’secular’’ player. Party circles are sure to look askance at reports that the dramatic development in Orissa was preceded by secret liaisons between Patnaik and Sharad Pawar’s NCP. Patnaik met Governor M C Bhandare at Raj Bhawan and handed over a letter of support signed by 75 MLAs. The governor advised Patnaik to prove his majority in the 147-member House on March 11. Shortly after Patnaik dumped it, the BJP had withdrawn support to the government and demanded that the governor recommend imposition of President’s rule. Patnaik, who had apparently made all arrangements to face the fallout of the alliance’s collapse, however, said, ‘’Our government has sufficient majority to continue its work for the people of Orissa.’’ Flanked by legislators from JMM, NCP, CPI and CPM, he added, ‘’More than 74 members (the majority number) were present in Raj Bhawan. The vote of confidence will be on March 11.’’ The BJD has 61 legislators, including Speaker Kishore Mohanty. To reach the magic number, it has managed to get support letters from Independents (seven), JMM (four), NCP (two), CPI (one) and CPM (one) and Kesinga MLA Dhaneswar Mahi, who recently quit BJP, government chief whip Bikram Arukh said. The BJP, with 30 MLAs (Laikera MLA Brundaban Majhi has joined Samrudha Odisha), Congress (38 members) and Jashipur MLA Sambhunath Naik (Independent) complete the state assembly. BJD sources said anticipating the possible outcome of severing ties with BJP, Patnaik had spoken to top leaders of Left parties, NCP and JMM and kept his gameplan ready for realignment of political forces in the state. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, who had last week come to Bhubaneswar and met key BJD leaders, arrived here on Sunday to firm up an alliance for the LS polls. Though the NCP’s decision to back BJD came as a surprise, considering state NCP chief Bijay Mohapatra’s bitter relationship with Patnaik, sources said the BJD boss had, through a BJD RS member, worked out a deal with NCP chief Sharad Pawar a few weeks ago. Everything was in place. Patnaik was just waiting for the right time to make public his decision, a close aide said.

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