Odisha Chief Minister Naveen has always said that his party, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), maintains equal distance from the BJP as well as the Congress and rubbished all rumours about an alliance with the ruling party ahead of the 2019 national election even as the Congress has alleged that "both the parties are hand-in-glove with each other".
When the BJD walked out of the house on Friday, the move was seen by many as supporting the government. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik alleged that the BJD walkout has exposed the understanding between the BJD and the BJP.
BJP-BJD's "rishta" is clear as a crystal now. They think they can fool us with their posturing but their stand is totally exposed. People of Odisha will never forget that when it came to delivering a decisive blow to the BJP, BJD chose to walk out.#NoConfidenceMotion- Niranjan Patnaik (@NPatnaikOdisha) July 20, 2018
And today Mr Patnaik gave thumbs up to the government's decision to scrap tax on sanitary pads adding it will help the state-run Khushi scheme in Odisha.
Exemption of #GST on #SanitaryNapkins will positively impact public health of future generations & benefit #Odisha's #Khushi scheme, announced in Feb'18 to provide free sanitary napkins to all 17 lakh girls in government & government aided schools from class VI to XII in #Odisha- Naveen Patnaik (@Naveen_Odisha) July 22, 2018
Last month, Mr Patnaik had announced the BJD's support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposal for holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. Assembly elections in Odisha have been held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha election since 2004.
Whether the Odisha chief minister is warming up to his erstwhile ally and contemplating joining hands with the BJP will only be clear in the months to come, Mr Patnaik insists the only focus of his government has been on "good work for Odisha".
A few months ago, around the launch of his father's biography "The Tall Man Biju Patnaik", Mr Patnaik's meeting with PM Modi triggered speculation that the two leaders might have talked about on a possible alliance. But he dismissed conjectures that the BJD was going to play a role in national politics. The BJD founder hasn't attended any opposition unity meetings either.
Before that, the BJD had backed Ram Nath Kovind, the NDA candidate during the presidential election, however, it had opposed the alliance's pick for vice-president. The BJD's support went to Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the opposition's candidate for the vice-presidential election. The decision was seen as the balancing act of the party, which is often found on the same side of the fence as the Modi
government on legislation
Leader of Opposition in Odisha Assembly Narasingha Mishra of the Congress said, "BJD supports NDA at the time of need. The equidistant policy that the BJD speaks of is not always true".
Naveen Patnaik founded the BJD in 1997, and has been ruling uninterruptedly for four terms. The party was in an alliance with the BJP between 2000 and 2009. Both parties severed their relationship after the seat-sharing talks between the two parties collapsed. Bitterness followed.
The BJD's success in the recent Bijepur by-election -- the party's Rita Sahu defeated the BJP's Ashok Panigrahi by a margin of 42,000 votes -- and twin wins in the local body elections of Hindol and Attabira Notified Area Councils, had the BJP concerned.
BJP national president Amit Shah's frequent visits to the state are being viewed as the BJP's preparation for a high-voltage campaign against the BJD.