Both the BJD and BJP were hard pressed to explain their bonhomie in the candidature of Ashwini Vaishnav, a former bureaucrat who used to be the private secretary of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Much to the discomfiture of the two parties, the Congress went hammer and tongs terming it the betrayal of people’s mandate by the BJD that exposes the deep-rooted nexus between the two linked to the mining lobby.

Ashwini Vaishnav, a 1994 batch IAS officer who quit service after Vajpayee’s tenure, was announced as the BJP candidate for the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik publicly stated that PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had spoken to him and the BJD will support the candidature of Vaishnav.

The BJD, with 112 MLAs in the Assembly, has the numbers to get secure all three seats, yet it decided to forego one seat by supporting the BJP nominee.

On Saturday, Vaishnav formally joined the BJP at the party office in Bhubaneswar in the presence of state unit president Basant Panda who was visibly flummoxed.

The BJP state unit leaders were virtually hiding their faces as they had no clue on Vaishnav’s candidature and BJD’s support.

We, including Panda or even Dharmendra Pradhan, were kept in the dark, confided a senior state BJP unit office bearer.

He conceded that till a month ago the party, including Pradhan, had been lambasting the mining lobby and persons with whom Vaishnav is allegedly connected.

What do we tell the people? How do we fight the polls for the high stake Patkura Assembly seat? Asked the disgusted BJP leader.

The BJD circles were also unconvincing in their reply to how and why the party had supported a BJP candidate when it could easily have nominated one of its own.

Veteran Congress leader and MLA Narasingha Mishra charged the “mining lobby controls both the BJD and BJP. There is a deep-rooted nexus”.

How would a non-Odia protect the interests of Odisha? If the CM wanted to send bureaucrats he could have picked any Odia IAS officer, quipped Mishra.

The CM and BJD are scared of Modi and Shah, he alleged, adding that the BJD is falling at the BJP’s feet to escape the kind of harassment that anti-Modi leaders are facing in the country.