Evidently conscious of the discomfiture amongst party cadres over PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah telephoning Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for support in the election to the deputy chairman Rajya Sabha. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan gave a spin to the issue by wondering why a ‘Odia’ was not in the race.

Implicitly referring to speculations a few months ago that BJD MP Prasanna Acharya could be a candidate, Pradhan on Sunday said what prevented a Odia to be the candidate, it is for them to answer.

The assertion of no alliance with the BJD however came from Union Minister Prakash Javedkar who also arrived in the city on Sunday.

Clearly, the BJP was keen to counter the growing perception that the party at the highest level was ‘soft’ towards the BJD and looking at it as a possible post 2019 election ally.

What disturbed the party ranks is the telephonic call from Amit Shah to Naveen Patnaik. The BJP president had never spoken to the CM earlier and had often called people to throw out the BJD ( ukhad ke phek do ), just as he sayed in West Bengal. Shah had also termed Naveen Patnaik as a ‘burnt transformer’ which is unable to relay the several central schemes to the people of the state.

BJP worker here were confident of Shah taking on the CM and that Dharmendra Pradhan being the ‘closest’ to Shah would prevail upon him on matters relating to Odisha.

Speculation in political circles here was that Pradhan was kept out of the loop in the negotiations for the deputy chairman election.

Clearly, all this called for a moral boosting show and the BJP did so on Sunday by organising a huge reception to Pradhan. The reception was however said to be for the passing of the OBC Commission bill.

Pradhan said the BJP’s target was to dislodge the Congress which had occupied the deputy chairman RS post.

Who spoke to whom, who approached first and who went to whom is all well known, he said while trying to underplay the telephone calls related issue.

But he did throw the ball into the BJD court by raking up the Odia candidate issue. Implicitly he sent the message across that had the BJD chief Naveen Patnaik been keen, he could have nominated a RS MP from Odisha and negotiated with other parties.

The BJP wanted to defeat the Congress in line with its Congress Mukta Bharat stand, it did not field a candidate, he pointed out.

Pradhan was emphatic in stating that the BJP is focusing on all the 147 assembly and 21 parliamentary seats in Odisha. He expressed confidence that the BJP will form the government at the centre as well as the state.

Mr Prakash Javedkar, on his part, said several parties lent their support to the NDA candidate but it does not mean there is an alliance with all of them.

The ruling BJD was quick to rebut Pradhan’s “ Odia MP” card saying it is sheer frustration that is showing.

There was no talk of any MP from the state contesting the election to the deputy chairman post and Dharmendra Pradhan is only trying to wriggle out of the huge embarrassment, the loss of face, that he had to bear with, said the BJD spokespersons