The eleventh-hour decision of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik that his party MPs  walk out without participating in the debate on the no-trust motion in Parliament has damaged the party and led to speculations of the PM having spoken to him to neutrailise the impact of the Shiv Sena.

Nobody, including party MPs, was aware of the change till this morning. Earlier, the decision of the BJD president, Naveen Patnaik, was that the party will take part in the debate with Puri MP Pinaki Mishra assigned to lead the task.

The BJD had decided to hit out at both the Congress and the BJP-led NDA government by raising issues of Mahanadi river water dispute, Polavaram project, MSP for paddy and decry the central neglect. Mishra was to “balance” the attack targeting both the erstwhile UPA and NDA for neglecting Odisha.

Reliable sources said the BJD had also decided not to vote. Effectively use the debate to raise Odisha related issues and walk out was the line to maintain the party’s avowed stand of “equidistance” from the Congress and BJP.

But suddenly, at the very last minute, all this changed with the party supremo directing his MPs not to take part in the proceedings and walk out instead.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, several BJD MPs confirmed that they were caught unawares when the decision to walk out was taken. “One or two knew about as it was communicated to them,” said an MP.

Many admitted they had turned themselves into a subject of ridicule. They said that the visuals of the BJD walking out and the PM smiling triumphantly was damaging and sent a message which is bound to make things difficult for MPs in their respective constituencies.

The Congress-led Opposition jeered while the BJP was laughing away as it had neutralised the Shiv Sena which would otherwise have hogged the spotlight by staying away.

OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik hit out saying the nexus between the BJD and BJP has been exposed, the equi-distance mask has been ripped off and the BJD is the ‘B’ team of the BJP, he charged.

“The BJD is scared of CBI investigations in to the chit fund scam and the BJP needs numbers as well as a post 2019 ally. Both are for power and they do not have any sincerity in development of Odisha or safeguarding interest of Odisha,” he said.

Significantly, the state BJP, too, attacked the BJD for not participating in the debate and raising issues of Odisha.

BJD spokesperson was distinctly uncomfortable in defending the stand of the party. “We have maintained our stand of equidistance, our MP Bhartruhari Mahatab clearly stated in parliament that Odisha has been neglected over the last 14 years both by UPA and NDA, and the debate is not going to help fulfil the aspirations of the state,” iterated BJD spokespersons here.

Over 90 lakh trucks and around 50 lakh buses, tempos and tourist vehicles went off the roads on Friday as their owners began an indefinite strike to press for their various demands, including reduction in diesel prices.

Pick-up or delivery of goods has been hit from manufacturing to consumer centres, cargo transport from airports, seaports and railway yards has been halted while movement of people in private buses and tourist vehicles was affected with even school-buses on strike.