The secret reason for BJP's confidence about the upcoming Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman election was a phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi - to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, NDTV has learnt. The call, made on Monday, sealed the deal for which way nine BJD lawmakers will vote in Thursday's election, sources said.
The BJD vote is crucial, given the narrow margin that exists between the government and the opposition, which takes the vote to 123 for the government side, leaving the Opposition to around 110.
While there was no official word on the phone call, BJD sources told NDTV that the Prime Minister is believed to have told Mr Patnaik that he holds both the Chief Minister and his father in high esteem.
Sources also confirmed to NDTV that this was the second time the Prime Minister dialled the Odisha chief minister within a month. When the vote of confidence took place, it was a call by PM Modi that ensured that BJD lawmakers abstain from the voting, which enabled a two-thirds win for the NDA in the prestige battle.
The phone calls also illustrate how an election for even a symbolic post is taken seriously by the government. In face of an opposition victory of a membership to the PAC panel, the BJP used its trump card -- the Prime Minister.
It is also significant that the party's chief strategist Amit Shah remained in the background. The BJP chief, who is targeting the non-BJP states in the coming Lok Sabha elections, has been very critical of the Chief Minister in his rallies in the state. The rallies have been mostly built around how "Naveen Babu has done a dismal job in the state'' and how the "BJP was about to sweep Odisha".
Officially, the BJD support is being attributed to another phone call --one by a key member of the NDA, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Mr Kumar had voted for PA Sangma in 2012 when he was pitched for the post of the President by the opposition against Pranab Mukherjee. At the time, Naveen Patnaik had made the phone call to Nitish Kumar. This, the government said, was payback time.
Having helped PM Modi twice now, will Naveen Patnaik ally with BJP in 2019? "It all depends on numbers," said a lawmaker.
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