Odisha MP Baijayant Jay Panda quits Biju Janta Dal as buzz of his inclination towards BJP becomes louder

Baijayant Jay Panda quit Odisha's ruling party Biju Janta Dal (BJD) on Monday. The MP's resignation came after Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik had suspended Panda in January for allegedly indulging in 'anti-party' activities, said media reports. Panda wrote a letter to Patnaik which read, "It's with deep anguish, hurt and sorrow that I have decided to quit the politics into which our BJD has descended." He further said that he would formally convey this decision to the Lok Sabha speaker.

 Odisha MP Baijayant Jay Panda quits Biju Janta Dal as buzz of his inclination towards BJP becomes louder

Baijayant Jay Panda. News18

Jay Panda, the self-proclaimed founding member of the BJD, is the son of Odia industrialist and founder of the IMFA (Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys Limited), Bansidhar Panda, and Ila Panda, a Rajya Sabha MP from 1992-1998.

Bansidhar was close to Naveen Patnaik’s father, Biju Patnaik, and that connection took Ila to Rajya Sabha. After the death of Biju Patnaik, Naveen took over his father’s political legacy and formed the Biju Janata Dal in December 1997. He then sent Jay Panda to Rajya Sabha in 2000. Panda continued to stay in Rajya Sabha for nine years till Naveen gave him BJD’s safest parliamentary seat Kendrapara to come to Lok Sabha in 2009. Panda won again in 2014 from that very seat. From 2000 to 2014, Panda worked for the BJD in Delhi and became the party's face and voice in the national media, Outlook reported.

But according to media reports, the four-time MP is apparently not on good terms with Patnaik since 2014 due to his supposed inclination towards BJP when Narendra Modi became the prime minister.

Post-2014, Patnaik did not make Panda the leader of BJD parliamentary party in Lok Sabha. Panda also wanted Patnaik's support to become the chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance, which also did not come through. Particular about his clean image in politics, Patnaik knew that the two family companies (ICCL and IMFA) of Panda are among the 20 bank defaulters in India and so went ahead with his decision of not allowing Panda the post.

Panda's resignation may cost the BJD as apart from being the richest industrialist from the state, he also owns a popular television regional channel OTV. He has a considerable presence in the national media although he belonged to a regional party, said DalilyO. The parliamentarian is quite active on social media as well.

In the 2017 panchayat elections, BJP displaced the Congress to emerge as the second largest party in the state and that gave Panda some hope and he came out openly criticising Patnaik's style of functioning. Consequently, Patnaik removed him as his party’s spokesperson.

Author Amitabh Tiwari in one of his pieces in Firstpost, pointed out to the lack of any known faces of the BJP in the state. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan who secretly desires to be the chief minister of the state, however, lacks in mass appeal along with another former chief minister Giridhar Gomango which the BJP would have loved to see in them. Moreover, it is also not clear whether Modi is really interested in projecting BJP as a serious opposition to Patnaik in Odisha as he could be a possible ally to come back to power after the next election.

Although the BJP was once an alliance partner of the BJD till 2009, the party organisation in the state is far from being a formidable one which is an absolute necessity if at all it wants to offer some notable challenge to the supremacy of the BJD and Chief Minister Patnaik in particular in the state polls next year. So if Panda decides to join the BJP, the party will gain at least in terms of visibility and a known voice.

Whether Panda's joining the BJP, if he does at all, will make any difference for the party on the ground is something that only time can tell. However, it is quite obvious that BJD given its reach in Odisha, BJP will always have a hard time to dislodge Naveen Patnaik as the chief minister of the state, said a piece in the Outlook.

Odisha state BJP president Basanta Kumar Panda in Sunday Guardian in April 2018 had said that though Panda has not approached the party yet, any ‘good person’ who subscribes to the ideology of the BJP and accepts the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national president Amit Shah, will be welcome to the party.

Interestingly, many leaders from the BJD and Congress have started joining the BJP lately. Former BJD MLA Ashok Kumar Panigrahi joined the BJP after he contested the 2014 elections as an independent candidate from the Bijepur Assembly constituency. Family members of the late Congress leader Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra (Lulu) and their supporters also joined the BJP in 2017. Now as Panda quits the BJD it remains to be seen if the BJP will welcome him.

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Updated Date: May 28, 2018 19:35:08 IST