Is Jayalalithaa-Narendra Modi-Navin Patnaik the new anti-Congress, pro-BJP political axis emerging in India?
It looks like it.
And definitely it is not just NCTC and those anti-state bills that bring them together. In the coming months, if a few more gravitate towards them, they will be the most influential post-poll political block.
Interestingly, after meeting Jaya in Delhi recently, Patnaik is meeting her again in Chennai. And Jaya doesn’t meet people just like that. Sometimes she doesn’t even respond to letters from others as in the case of Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, let alone give them an audience.
After Narendra Modi, Patnaik is the second chief minister to meet Jaya in Chennai. And for him, it’s his first official visit to the state.
That Patnaik is visiting Chennai to establish an “Odisha Bhavan” in the city symbolises the increasing association between the two leaders. State “bhavans” in other states are rather rare and there are no exceptional circumstances that warrant such an official outpost.
For instance, Pondicherry, which has a “bhavan” in the city has very strong cultural and administrative reasons to be represented in Tamil Nadu.
In Delhi, Jaya, Modi and Patnaik made a formidable political threesome. They smiled in unison, spoke a common language and appeared to be quite comfortable with each other.
Patnaik’s visit will indeed be surrounded by speculations on the Presidential election, on which the BJD, is yet to open its cards; but the significance of the axis goes beyond the immediate and will certainly play out in the 2014 parliament elections.
If all goes well, the three chief ministers together will control bulk of the 86 Lok Sabha seats from their states. With Jayalalithaa asserting quite early that her party (read she) will play an important role in deciding the next government at the centre, Patnaik joining hands with her and Modi amplify their possible intentions.
Among the three, Jayalalithaa has an upper hand in terms of the number of seats in Parliament. Tamil Nadu has 39 LS seats, followed by Gujarat’s 26 and Orissa’s 21. Jaya has already urged her party workers to get her all the 39 seats. On her last birthday, she said that would be her best birthday gift.
With Jayalalithaa and Patnaik on his side, it will be advantage Modi within the BJP, in case he presses ahead with his prime ministerial ambitions. The axis can also majorly influence the contours of the next government, including on policy issues. Although her supporters such as Cho Ramaswamy goad her to take up a national role, Jayalalithaa is unlikely to shift base and will instead prefer Modi. (please link to Pramod’’s previous story here)
The Jaya-Modi-Patnaik axis is not just about politicking. It is also about sharing best practices in development and governance and, learning from one another – what international development experts term as “south-south cooperation”.
In this case, Patnaik will certainly gain a lot from Modi and Jaya.
The mutual respect and perhaps admiration between Modi and Jaya has been all too evident for some time now. Jaya got considerable support from Modi during crisis situations and some of her mega-scale socio-economic projects look somewhat inspired by Gujarat.
Her audacious vision 2013, which lays out extremely ambitious plans for the state’s development including a dramatic rise in per-capita income, massive infrastructure, tough police policy and accent on alternative energy are some examples that have the unmistakeable Modi stamp.
For Patnaik, Odisha Bhavan will be the beginning.
Prior to his visit, he said the outpost will be helpful to people from his state who visit Tamil Nadu. At present, most of the Odiya visitors in the city are either patients seeking medical help in the city hospitals or the countless contract labourers engaged in construction.
Interestingly, Jaya, Modi and Patnaik have a few personal traits in common: they are single, aloof and articulate.
They also have a few differences: Modi and Jaya are skilled, tough administrators with considerable hands-on experience in both politics and governance; and rule two states that are socio-economically far more advanced than many others. Patnaik, in comparison, still has a long way to go, and presides over one of the poorest and worst-governed states.
In any case, an axis of states that support and collaborate with each other is a welcome trend in Indian federalism. When the centre tries to infringe on state autonomy and impose its one-size-fits-all development policies that overlook the socio-economic diversity of the states (e.g. education and public health), resistance by states that in turn cooperate with each other is an interesting aspect of the constantly evolving Indian democracy.