Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik with PM Modi
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik with PM Modi | orissadiary.com
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The BJD, which was in alliance with the BJP between 2000 and 2009, will hold a rally to highlight Modi government’s “apathy towards Odisha’s farmers”. 

New Delhi: The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the ruling party of Odisha which is perceived to be friendly to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), now appears to be slowly turning up the heat on the Modi government, ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The BJD, which was in alliance with the BJP between 2000 and 2009, is set to hold a rally at the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi on 8 January, where it will highlight the Modi government’s “apathy towards Odisha’s farmers”.

“We want the Centre to come up with measures to help farmers in the state whose crop has been damaged in the recent cyclone,” said senior BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab, who is also the floor leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. “Farmers in the state are still reeling under its impact.”

The state was hit by Cyclone Titli in October last year.

The BJD’s move comes at a time when the Amit Shah-led BJP has been working overtime to expand its footprint in Odisha, where it won just one of the state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. Since then, the saffron party has emerged as the main opposition party there, replacing the Congress, which has been losing ground steadily.

Odisha will also see assembly elections this year along with the general elections. To bolster the party’s prospects, the BJP is considering fielding PM Narendra Modi from the Puri Lok Sabha seat. Asked about this, in an interview to news agency ANI Tuesday, Modi had evaded a direct reply.

Upping the ante

This is the latest instance of the BJD putting the pressure on the BJP-led NDA government.

On Wednesday, during the discussion on the Rafale deal in the Lok Sabha, the BJD slammed the government on “lapses in the purchase of the fighter jet” and sought a white paper on the deal.

On 28 December, when the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, popularly known as the triple talaq bill, came up for passage in the Lok Sabha, the BJD was among the opposition parties that opposed the clause to criminalise the practice of instant divorce.

With numbers on its side, the ruling NDA government managed to get the bill passed in the Lok Sabha but not before opposition parties, including the Congress and AIADMK, staged a walkout before voting.

BJD leaders said it is just a perception that the party is on the same page as the BJP.

“We have always been vehement in opposing issues that are not in the interest of the nation,” Mahtab told ThePrint. “But at the same time, we have made it clear from the very beginning that we will not oppose the government for the sake of opposing it.”

Also read: The writing on the wall is clear: Welcome 2019, goodbye, Narendra Modi

The Delhi rally 

The BJD’s decision to hold a rally in the Capital to put pressure on the NDA government comes close on the heels of a meeting between party chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Telangana counterpart K. Chandrashekar Rao in Bhubaneswar.

Rao, who is trying to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP front, had met Patnaik to discuss the possibility of helming an alliance. The Telangana CM had also met West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee a day after meeting Patnaik.

Mahtab said the party’s strategy with respect to the BJP and the Congress continues to remain the same.

“We continue to maintain equidistance from both BJP and the Congress. There has been no change in our position,” he said.

Ever since the Narendra Modi-led government came to power in 2014, however, the BJD has bailed out the ruling party on a number of occasions.

The BJD supported some of the controversial decisions of the government such as its demonetising of high-value currency notes and the rolling out of the goods and service tax.

It also voted for the NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind in 2017 and supported its candidate for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy speaker last year.

Also read: Naveen Patnaik, Mamata Banerjee shake hands with KCR only to push their own 2019 agendas


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