(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 22, 2009
THE end of the alliance with NDA was finally announced by Naveen Patnaik on March 7, 2009. The Biju Janata Dal made it public that it would face the election separately since the discussion over seat sharing with the BJP failed. All efforts of L K Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of NDA and his emissary, Chandan Mitra, turned futile.
The BJP spared no time to withdraw support to the Naveen Patnaik government. The governor met the BJP leadership and received the letter of withdrawal of support at late hours on March 7, 2009. Both the BJP and the Congress demanded that president’s rule be clamped on Orissa since the government headed by Naveen Patnaik had become a minority.
Biju Janata Dal at this juncture sought the support of CPI(M), CPI, JMM and NCP to achieve a majority. In a house of 147 members, BJD has 61 MLAs including the speaker. The magic number of 74 was achieved with the support of seven independent MLAs -- four of JMM, two of NCP and one each of the CPI and CPI(M). That apart, two MLAs of BJP deserted their party to extend support to the BJD government. A contingent of 75 MLAs including the chief minister marched to the Raj Bhawan to parade the majority and demand that an opportunity be given to prove the majority on the floor of the house within three days of time. The governor counted the number of MLAs, verified their signatures, questioned the legislators of newly supporting parties and then gave the direction to hold the session on March 11, 2009 where the chief minister would seek the trust vote.
With both the Congress and the BJP questioning the propriety of the session after the notification of elections, it led to a pandemonium in the house and finally they walked out and the trust motion was passed with voice vote. The days following the BJD-BJP pull out witnessed one after another BJP legislators deserting the party and announcing their support to BJD. In the final event when the BJP walked out from the house, the deputy speaker belonging to BJP and one more MLA did not join the party legislators. In total, five MLAs belonging to BJP deserted the party and the worship of Hanuman in the premises of the party office for sankat mochan did not come to the rescue of the saffron party. After Naveen Patnaik’s government won the trust vote in the house both the Congress and the BJP prayed to the governor to recommend the dismissal of the government. Their contention is that the trust vote has been won through procedural violation undermining the parliamentary democracy.
The whole episode has brought about a new realignment of the political forces in Orissa. The BJP losing the support of BJD is set to win just zero number of Lok-Sabha seats in Orissa with its strength in the assembly marginalised to single digit. The taste of power that it enjoyed for last nine years has came to an end. The agenda of the saffron party hence forth shall be to protect its foothold with aggressive communal platform for which Narendra Modi has been deputed to lead the campaign. The developments in Orissa have given a big shock to the saffron brigade that sought to convert Orissa as the “Second Laboratory of Hindutva” after Gujarat.
Here it would be relevant to mention that BJPs growth in Orissa was sudden. It had just two MLAs in 1990 and nine in 1995, thanks to the clandestine deal of the Congress with this communal outfit. The developments in national political scene that had brought BJP to the centre stage of anti-Congress politics through communal campaign and alliance with non-Congress regional parties had its impact on Orissa in late 90s. The inactiveness of the erstwhile Janata Dal, its defeat in successive elections and Biju Patnaik’s growing age and subsequent demise left the party demoralised with some joining BJP directly and many others planning to float a regional party to form an alliance with BJP. This favourable situation was taken advantage of and the BJP promoted its fortune by joining hands with BJD. The BJD had to accept and grant this ‘oversized’ status to its junior partner. The BJP was confident of a repetition of Rajasthan and Gujarat experience where the saffron party gobbled the Janata Dal, by being its junior partner and affecting a role reversal.
But developments in Orissa hampered the dreams of the BJP. It had to be restrained to engineer disruption within BJD since its government at the centre was dependent upon the support of the regional parties like BJD. The debacle in 2004 elections weakened its influence at the national level and left its state unit in defensive within the alliance. The BJP ministers, MPs and MLAs were seen as corrupt and immoral politicians enjoying the spoils of power. The party’s strength in panchayat and municipal bodies declined with Bhubaneswhar and Cuttack municipal corporation elections driving the last nail on the coffin.
The Sangh Parivar adopted dual tactics: that BJP shall enjoy the power to facilitate the communal activities and outfits like VHP and Bajrang Dal shall undertake communal activities. They attacked the Orissa assembly in 2002. The Kandhamal riots were the climax where the Sangh Parivar organised devastating communal riots killing people, demolishing 2855 houses belonging to Christians and 170 places of worship, being spread over to 272 villages. On the one hand the BJP’s political strength and influence was declining and on the other the saffron brigade was increasing its communal activities. This made BJD to think afresh about the alliance with BJP. The BJD chalked out its plan to achieve an absolute majority of its own in the assembly and sought to tilt the balance within the alliance. The BJP insisted upon the continuity of the status quo contesting nine Lok Sabha and 63 assembly seats and leaving 12 Lok Sabha and 84 Assembly seats to BJD. The national leadership including L K Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of the party valued the need of BJD in their bid to bring back NDA to power and tried hard to retain this regional party with them. However, the dispute over seat sharing could not be muted and culminated in a breakup ending eleven years of political alliance.
The developments in Orissa not only indicate an opening up of a new chapter in Orissa politics but its impact on the national politics is also quite powerful. First of all, it weakens the NDA and shatters its dream to stage a come back to power. It opens the eyes of other regional parties who are tied with BJP in NDA.
Being a non-Congress, non-BJP political formation, the BJD happens to be a natural choice for association with the drive for a Third alternative. But the compulsion is that this regional party after severing its ties with BJP, joins hand with the two Left parties, the CPI and the CPI(M) on the one hand and two constituents of the UPA, like the JMM and the NCP on the other. It has announced to go for seat sharing in stead of joining any front.
The Left forces and the CPI(M) welcomed these developments and Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau member of the Party who was in Orissa just on the eve of the BJD-BJP split announced in the news conference that severing the ties with BJP is a fitting tribute to the late Biju Patnaik on his 94th birth anniversary in whose name the party Biju Janata Dal was formed. He again arrived in Orissa on March 8, 2009 after the alliance broke and met Naveen Patnaik along with Janardan Pati, state secretary and Alikishore Patnaik, state secretariat member of the Party to convey the appreciation of the Party and invite him to join the drive for a Third alternative. After the meeting, addressing the media persons, Naveen Patnaik announced that there was a preliminary discussion over seat sharing with CPI(M) and that Sitaram Yechury welcomed the steps taken by Biju Janata Dal under the Naveen Patnaik leadership.