- Baijayant Jay Panda quit Odisha's ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) last year
- He's owner of conglomerate with interests in mining, power, real estate
- He was removed as BJD's party spokesperson over an article he wrote
Baijayant Jay Panda, who quit Odisha's ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) last year, joined the BJP today declaring that he "admired Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah's leadership" and had decided to join the party on "auspicious Mahashivratri".
Jay Panda, 55, quit the BJD last May after a bitter falling out with his party chief Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha. Since then, the four-time parliamentarian had been seen to gravitate towards the BJP, which has been trying to make in-roads in Odisha.
Jay Panda said he had taken the step after nine months of introspection and widespread consultations with colleagues and the public.
"I accept PM Modi and Amit Shah's leadership and I believe it is important for the country. I admire the direction the BJP is taking the country," he said.
The owner of a large conglomerate with interests in mining, power and real estate, Jay Panda had been a parliamentarian of the BJD since 2000 and had been among the party's most prominent leaders from Odisha.
Nine months of introspection & widespread consultations w/colleagues & public.- Baijayant Jay Panda (@PandaJay) March 4, 2019
Grateful for support recd from all over.
On auspicious #MahaShivratri I've decided to join @BJP4India & work under the leadership of @narendramodi Ji to serve Odisha & India to the best of my ability
The switch may hurt Naveen Patnaik's party in Odisha ahead of the national and state elections, which are expected together. But on record, the BJD said Jay Panda's exit would not affect the party as he "can't win an election without Naveen Patnaik's support".
Odisha has 21 parliamentary seats, of which BJP won 20 in 2014. The BJP has only one, represented by Union Minister Jual Oram. In the assembly election, the BJD won 117 of 147 seats.
In 2017, the BJP emerged as the second largest party in the Panchayat or rural body polls, gaining at the cost of the BJD. The Congress was elbowed to the third place.
Jay Panda's troubles with his party boss peaked when he was suspended on "disciplinary grounds" after he appeared to openly challenge the leadership after a poor performance in these polls. He was removed as the BJD's parliamentary party spokesperson over an article he wrote shortly after the local polls, alleging that the party was being run by "opportunists".
The rift widened and became so deep that he was hit with eggs and slippers by party workers loyal to Naveen Patnaik at a meeting.
The party stopped short of expelling the four-time lawmaker though he alleged a conspiracy by a rival leader to remove him.
Jay Panda's attacks intensified after the BJD ordered a probe against him on the complaint of some local leaders about his "behavior". Finally, in May, he quit with a letter in which he said: "It is with deep anguish, hurt and sorrow that I have decided to quit the kind of politics into which our BJD has descended."