Naveen-Modi Meeting Sets Grapevine Abuzz

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BJP and BJD had opportunistic alliance beginning from 2000-2009. Central BJP leaders realise that periodical reiteration of demands like special category state status for Odisha is a political compulsion for a party that thrives on regional passions.

On his first visit to Delhi after taking up the reins of the state for the fifth time chief minister, Naveen Patnaik met Prime Minister, Narendra  Modi. The meeting has set the grapevine abuzz with speculation rife that BJP and BJD may come closer.

There were some obvious issues that the chief minister took up with the Prime Minister. Among other things he is believed to have central help for the renovation work in the wake of cyclone Fani. Having made an aerial survey of the cyclone-hit areas alongwith Patnaik in the immediate wake of the disaster Modi is aware of the scale of damage sustained by coastal districts such as Puri and Khurda which bore the brunt of Fani.

Considering that loss to public property in the cyclone was to the tune of Rs.6643.63 crore and the state spent another Rs.2692.63 crore on relief measures Odisha would need substantial financial assistance from the Centre to compensate itself. This is the most important issue that Patnaik is believed to have taken up with the Prime Minister who lent him a sympathetic ear.

But the speculation is basically about the political issues that the two leaders are supposed to have discussed beginning with with the possibility of BJD Lok Sabha member, Bhartruhari Mahtab being made a candidate for the post of Lok Sabha’s deputy speaker. The post is traditionally reserved for the opposition parties but backing a BJD leader has its own advantages for the Modi-led NDA as the regional party is likely to adopt a soft attitude towards the government.

Notwithstanding the public posturing of BJD leaders on issues like special category state status for Odisha and Mahanadi and Polavaram disputes the party is unlikely to strike a tough stance vis-a-vis the Centre as it may prove counter-productive at a time when the state needs generous assistance from the new dispensation in Delhi.

More importantly BJP and BJD have done business in the past. The fact that despite their divergent ideologies they successfully ran a coalition government in the state for more than nine years shows that both are capable of making opportunistic alliances depending on the situation. Central BJP leaders also realise that periodical reiteration of demands like special category state status for Odisha, which Naveen also took up with the PM this time, is a political compulsion for a party that thrives on regional passions.

Issues like special category status and Mahanadi were played up during the elections as the BJD needed a strong regional plank to target the BJP, its principal rival. Though neither  Prime Minister, Narendra Modi nor BJP president Amit Shah rose to the bait chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, who was the star campaigner for his party, kept harping on them.

But the clever politician that he is Patnaik  has ensured that these issues  don’t  spoil his relations with Modi who has also  been extremely cordial towards Odisha chief minister and  assured the state all possible cooperation from his government. The fact is that despite NDA enjoying a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, Modi needs Naveen just as much as the later needs him.

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