Congress could benefit from BJP-BJD divorce: Chandan Mitra

March 15th, 2009 - 12:24 pm ICT by IANS  

By Murali Krishnan
New Delhi, March 15 (IANS) The Congress could well be the beneficiary of the break-up of the decade-long Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Biju Janata Dal (BJD) alliance in Orissa, according to BJP MP Chandan Mitra.

“The immediate gainer after the split will be the moribund Congress party, which has been sidelined by the BJP-BJD alliance all these years,” Mitra told IANS.

But Mitra said the two parties can still come together after the Lok Sabha elections, provided Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was willing to climb down from his “inflated notion of strength”.

It was to Mitra that Patnaik conveyed last week his unilateral decision to end the BJP-BJD alliance after the BJP refused to accept fewer seats in the assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

According to Mitra, Patnaik wanted the BJP to contest only 31 of the 147 assembly seats. The BJP has 32 sitting legislators. For the Lok Sabha, the BJD offered only five seats to the BJP although the latter has seven MPs from the state.

“How can any self-respecting organisation accept these terms? This was not possible,” Mitra said.

A week ago, BJP prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani sent Mitra to talk to Patnaik to salvage the souring relationship but the BJD leader was adamant.

“A post-poll alliance (between the BJP and BJD) is possible,” Mitra said. “It all depends on how Patnaik performs and if he is willing to climb down from his inflated notion of strength.

“We don’t know if he will join the Third Front. A future arrangement (with BJP) is possible,” Mitra added.

The BJP-BJD marriage 11 years ago turned out to be one of the most successful political alliances in Orissa, which accounts for 21 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP and BJD won most of them in 2004.

The BJD insisted on contesting a majority of the seats, citing its growing clout. The BJP refused to buy the argument.

Mitra, who is also editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, admitted that Orissa was crucial in the larger scheme of things for the BJP, which is desperate to unseat the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The BJP could not afford to concede the BJD’s offer of fewer seats to keep the alliance going, he said.

“By accepting humiliating terms, it opens the floodgates for other allies to put pressure on the BJP. It was extremely unrealistic and, more importantly, it would have had a demoralising effect on the local leadership,” said Mitra.

Mitra maintained that Advani had walked the extra mile to accommodate Patnaik’s wishes but after a point there was no reason in pushing further with the talks once it hit a dead end.

“I was sent because I was not a typical politician and my relations with Patnaik were cordial. But when he began to toe a tough line, the signals were clear. Advani certainly was very disappointed.”

Mitra does not believe that the anti-Christian violence in the state last year rocked the alliance.

“He (Patnaik) was quite perturbed over the threat by agitationists to enforce a shutdown on Christmas Day as it would have sent wrong signals in the country and internationally. He had sought the BJP’s help in averting this,” Mitra said.

The BJP is definitely upset — and angry.

To “expose the betrayal” of the BJD, the BJP is going all out to show its strength by holding a mammoth rally in Bhubaneswar Monday.

“We have to establish our credibility. We cannot be a silent spectator to what has happened and need to prove our strong presence in the state,” said Mitra.

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