As the heat and dust of the polls settle down, a new-found bonhomie between the BJP and BJD has fuelled speculation of possible post 23 May tie-up between the two.
The BJP leadership has been working overtime to woo BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik. Cyclone Fani provided the ideal opportunity in terms of providing whatever the Odisha government asked for and going a step further by doing more than what the state expected.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to land in Odisha on 6 May, three days after the storm. He wanted to land at Puri to see the damage caused by the cyclone. But the state government and police administration refused permission on ‘security grounds’.
The PM did not mutter a word; instead, he hailed the cyclone rescue operations of the Naveen Patnaik government. Barely two weeks before, the PM had dubbed CM Naveen Patnaik as a complete failure, corrupt and someone who is in the clutches of a handful of bureaucrats.
The babus will not be able to save Naveen Patnaik, he will receive a humiliating farewell on 23 May, the PM had said in his election meeting on 23 April.
Amit Shah, as well as the PM, had lambasted Naveen Patnaik for ushering in the West Bengal culture of electoral violence in the state.
Today, Shah praises Naveen and differentiates between the violence in Bengal and the peaceful polling in Odisha.
Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been camping in Odisha conducting review meetings with central sector undertakings and issuing directions for relief and restoration work. Verbal instructions were issued to the state BJP leaders not to confront or criticise the BJD government and the chief minister.
People were protesting on the streets against the failure in relief and restoration work – particularly water supply and power. They expected the opposition BJP to fight them. But the BJP remained silent.
When cyclone Titli had hit the state in 2018, the BJP used to hold media conferences on a daily basis and denounce the Naveen Patnaik government. It had also sent delegations to the worst-hit areas and exposed the lapses of the government.
They had to stand by the suffering people, now they are to stand by Naveen Patnaik for the post 23 May support. Both the parties who have sworn enemies as Odisha went to the polls last month were busy exchanging thank you messages and even writing letters of appreciation to each other. The adage- there is no permanent friend and foe in politics- holds good in Odisha. The voter is taken for a ride, remark the electorate in dismay.
Two weeks ago, the PM had said the state government is not cooperating with the Centre and blocking central schemes like Ayushman Bharat, PM-KISAN etc. Today he praises the excellent cooperation between the officers of the Centre and state.
It did not take 24 hours for Dharmendra Pradhan to provide Rs 3.20 crore towards kerosene as requested by the CM and within minutes Patnaik tweeted his thanks to Pradhan.
Post 23 May numbers dictate the discourse and the BJP hopes that the BJD will extend support in lieu of a 90:10 sharing ratio in several central schemes, if not, a special category state status.
Naveen Patnaik is in an unenviable position. He has all the options – support the NDA or UPA or the Mahagathbandan as well as the Federal Front. Given an opportunity, he may even opt for a BJP-led formation minus Modi and Shah.
There is already talk of Mrs Sonia Gandhi also trying to reach out to Naveen Patnaik and Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath being in touch with the BJD supremo.