Finally, the cold war between Naveen Patnaik and Jay Panda has come to an end. Senior Biju Janta Dal (BJD) leader Baijayant Jay Panda on Monday quit the party. He has been a party stalwart and associated with BJD ever since its formation in 1997. Baijayant Jay Panda, MP from Odisha’s Kendrapara wrote to Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, ” It’s with deep anguish, hurt and sorrow that I have decided to quit the politics into which our BJD has descended.” In January, he was suspended from the party due to his cold war with the Chief Minister. BJD vice-president, SN Patra while announcing about Panda’s suspension, stated, “Sri Panda has been directly and indirectly indulging in activities aimed at weakening BJD, whether it is the parliament, state, constituency or media space – no opportunity was missed by Panda to criticise BJD and eulogise the opposition. His claims of being a founder member of BJD are totally false”.
It is believed that Panda had run into a conflict with a bureaucrat who is Naveen Patnaik’s protege, V Karthikeyan Pandian, who runs the government as well as the party. He has been Private Secretary to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik since 2011 and is touted as the ‘Super CM’ for his extraordinary authority. The fact remains that Jay Panda was dismissed only after he voiced his concerns against the growing authority of Pandian. He had led the charge against the powerful bureaucrat and had vehemently objected to Pandian taking charge of party matters and the state administration.
One must keep in mind how the BJD government clamped down on his businesses, something that was largely seen as petty and vindictive. Indian Metals and Ferrous Alloys (IMFA), a company owned by Jay Panda’s family whose mining rights were cancelled. Since then Panda has been at loggerheads with the BJD.
Currently, he is serving his fourth term in the Parliament. Speculation about Panda joining the BJP has been rife for months now. He not only has massive support on the ground in his constituency, but also controls a substantial section of the Odia media. Moreover he has a solid connect with the youth. He enjoys a mass following on social media and has also praised the Modi government policies in the past.
With the BJP in an upswing in the state, perhaps Panda is exactly what they need to break the BJD fortress in Odisha which has been ruling the state for the last 18 years. BJP President Amit Shah, after the Tripura’s landslide victory, had said that the ‘Golden Period’ for the BJP party would not arrive till it manages to win in West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala. This statement shows the importance of Odisha for the BJP, whose rising popularity in the state is giving the Naveen government sleepless nights. If the speculation of Jay Panda joining BJP comes true, it will be an icing on the cake for the Modi government .