BJD-BJP split changes equations, Left pushes for Third Front (Roundup)

March 8th, 2009 - 9:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) The Biju Janata Dal’s move to part ways with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has thrown up new equations ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, as the BJD government in Orissa Sunday received support from several parties.
Orissa Governor Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare asked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to prove majority in the assembly March 11.

The BJD and the BJP, allies for 11 years, parted ways after their talks for seat-sharing in Orissa for the Lok Sabha elections failed Saturday night. The state goes to polls in two phases - April 16 and 23.

The BJP then withdrew support to the Patnaik government and demanded the imposition of president’s rule in the state, arguing that people had voted the coalition to power and not the BJD alone.

Patnaik and many of his ministers and party legislators met the governor at Raj Bhavan in Bubaneswar Sunday and informed him that he has the support of more than 74 legislators - the majority mark in the 147-seat house.

The BJD has 61 members and says it has the support of at least 14 legislators. The BJP has 32 members.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Communist Party of India (CPI), which have one member each, have said they would support the Patnaik government.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which has four legislators, has also extended its support to the BJD in case of a floor test, its legislature party leader Bimal Lochan Das said.

The two Nationalist Congress Party members will also support the Patnaik government, said NCP general Secretary D.P. Tripathi.

The move came as a shot in the arm for the Left parties led by the CPI-M that have been trying to form a Third Front, minus the Congress and the BJP, at national level before the Lok Sabha elections.

The CPI-M, which successfully forged an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in Karnataka along with its other Left allies, sent senior leader Sitaram Yechury as its emissary to meet Orissa Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and other leaders in Bhubaneswar.

“We are happy to hear the news of the BJD breaking off from the BJP and the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). Politburo member Sitaram Yechury is scheduled to meet Naveen Patnaik and other leaders,” CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters in New Delhi after the two-day central committee meeting of the party.

“It is a good development. After the Kandhamal attack on Christians, our leaders met Patnaik and told him that it is untenable for him to continue with the BJP,” he said.

Kandhamal district in Orissa witnessed large-scale violence against Christians after the murder of a Hindu leader Aug 23 last year.

The communist leader said Patnaik went to meet the Orissa governor in Bhabaneswar Sunday with 78 MLAs, including two Left MLAs.

BJD leaders and analysts said Saturday’s development was in the offing for some time.

Though failure to arrive at a conclusion over seat sharing for the coming Lok Sabha and assembly elections was described as the main reason for the split of the coalition, political analyst Prasanta Patnaik said the fate was known much before.

Many BJD leaders were not happy since the communal riots last year in parts of the state, especially in Kandhamal, Patnaik told IANS.

“The BJP rank and file and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) people were involved in the violence,” senior BJD leader and Orissa minister Suryanarayan Patro told IANS.

“We tolerated them to the maximum and still wanted to continue, but the BJP was demanding more seats though its popularity has eroded in many parts of the state,” Patro said.

At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes in Kandhamal, some 200 km from Bhubaneswar, after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs following the Hindu leader’s killing.

The BJP and VHP have denied their role in the violence.

The BJP, however, was still hopeful of a patch-up. “We are still hopeful” that the alliance would not be broken, BJP strategist and vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told IANS.

Asked why he was optimistic, Naqvi said: “Because the BJD is our old and dependable partner.”

The BJP-led NDA now has only nine constituents - down from 24 it had when it formed the central government in 1999.

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