The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) with its nine MPs is likely to support NDA candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh of JD(U) for the post of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman. A formal announcement by the BJD in this regard will be made on Wednesday.

Evidently worried that such a move is bound to expose its pro-NDA leanings , the BJD tried to prepare grounds, with its spokesperson Sasmit Patra telling mediapersons that Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had spoken to Naveen Patnaik and sought support for the JD(U) candidate. Patra stressed that JD(U) had in the past supported the BJD when it proposed P A Sangma for the Presidential election, making it sound as if the BJD might return the favour.

Patra, however, realized his mistake soon and admitted he was wrong is saying that JD(U) had supported Sangma. They had voted for Pranab Mukherjee, he clarified.

BJD sources in Delhi said everything is “fluid” there as it seemed both the Congress and the BJP wanted the smaller parties to handle the contest as a defeat for any one of them would be demoralising. They said lobbying was being done by the smaller regional forces.

The BJD’s formal stand will be known Wednesday afternoon. The sources said there was speculation if the opposition fielded someone like Naresh Gujral BJD might support him.

The BJD has over the last four years exhibited its pro-BJP stand on several occasions in Parliament and has never sided with the opposition parties. Its avowed “equidistance from both BJP and Congress” was ripped apart recently when it opted to walk out without participating in the debate on the no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha. Till the eleventh hour, BJD had decided to participate and MP Pinaki Mishra had been asked to prepare, but as soon as the MPs entered the Parliament the message went to them to “walk out without participating”, and they did so.

At the state level, BJD is up against the BJP raising issues of neglect, “centre siding with Chhattisgarh on Mahanadi river water issue”, Polavaram project etc. At the national level, however, it has been supportive of the BJP.

Several central BJP leaders and ministers are known to be ‘soft’ towards the BJD and in fact confide that in a post-poll scenario the BJD will be helpful in government formation.

Reliable sources said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik received calls from Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh on Tuesday requesting him to support the candidature of Harivansh Narayan Singh.

Sharad Pawar too had telephoned Naveen Patnaik to vote for the united opposition candidate. Pawar is said to have requested the BJD to vote or in the worst case abstain to maintain its line of equidistance from the Congress and the BJP as the party had done on several earlier occasions in the Lok Sabha.

Abstention would effectively help the Opposition candidate and the BJD is clearly unwilling to do so.

The Odisha Congress claimed the “mask” of equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP had been ripped off and charged that the BJD “stands exposed for its understanding with the BJP”.

“The double speak of the BJD, rank opportunism and hoodwinking people by criticising the BJP in the state is now in front of the people,” said a leader.

“The CBI has gone slow on the chit fund probe, the mega mining scam has been buried and a coal scam is left untouched…the quid pro quo is there for even a blind to see,” remarked a Congress spokesperson.