The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is open to joining hands with the Congress to keep “communal forces” like the BJP at bay, Odisha agriculture minister Damodar Rout said on Monday.
“The BJP is only daydreaming when it speaks of winning 120 seats in the 2019 assembly elections. We will welcome it if an anti-BJP party like the Congress supports us. However, party chief (and Odisha chief minister) Naveen Patnaik will take the final call,” the senior BJD leader told reporters here.
He also asked the Congress to list assembly segments where it was confident of winning the general polls in 2019, and called on all “non-BJP and non-communal” political outfits to unite.
Senior Congress leader Pradeep Majhi said the Congress high command will take a decision on the proposal. “Senior politicians like Rout can see through the BJP’s communal agenda,” he added.
However, Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar – who came to Bhubaneswar on a two-day visit – said a BJD-Congress alliance would hold no electoral significance. “The Congress is a zero, and the BJD is also a zero. The joining of two zeros will only make a zero,” he quipped.
State BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma said Rout’s admission was hardly surprising, given how the Congress had “helped the BJD in several ways” during the UPA days. “The BJD is unnerved by the results of panchayat polls, and it was inevitable that they should take the Congress’ help. The secret is now out in the open.”
The war of words between the BJD and BJP has scaled new heights since the saffron party’s unexpected success in the March panchayat polls, with leaders from both sides making scandalous remarks against each other.
On Sunday, Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram said a political ‘Nabakalebara’ (a ritualistic reincarnation where old idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra are replaced with new ones) would take shape in the state in 2019. “The people of Odisha have decided to dethrone the anti-poor Naveen Patnaik government, which has been in power for the last 17 years,” he said.
The BJD reacted by asking BJP leaders if they were equating themselves with Lord Jagannath. “The BJP has an inflated political ego. Does Oram consider himself a god, the way he talks of the Nabakalebara,” asked Pratap Deb, BJD MP in the Rajya Sabha.