There is no better illustration of amicable centre-state relations than the situation in Odisha. BJD and BJP’s harmonious relations have been further reinforced with CM Naveen Patnaik’s announcement of candidates for the 3 Rajya Sabha seats in Odisha. In this regard, the third candidate chosen is Ashwini Vaishnaw, formerly a BJD member but now contesting from BJP.
On 21st June, Naveen Patnaik had announced the names of the Rajya Sabha candidates in the state. Out of these, Patnaik had made it a point to clarify that “Ashwini Vaishnaw” was a BJP candidate and that BJD is going to support him. This announcement had come in an hour after BJP had proclaimed “Ashwini Vaishnaw” to be their candidate in Odisha. Strangely enough, this fact was thereafter ratified by Vaishnaw himself the next morning when he joined the BJP.
What is further puzzling to the observer is the importance given to Ashwini Vaishnaw, a well known former bureaucrat. However, the answer to this lies in what role Vaishnaw has played in the past and is going to play in future as far as relations between BJP and BJD are concerned. A former bureaucrat, Vaishnaw has followed Odisha’s politics very closely so is well aware of the people he is going to legislate over. He has also been a former private secretary to PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the first NDA term, hence has old ties with the BJP. Moreover, he was the one who arranged a meeting between Naveen Patnaik, PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on June 11, where the leaders discussed the possibility of the status of a ‘special focus’ state for Odisha. The meeting was also a moment of conciliation between the two parties who had traded barbs at each other during the hotly contested elections in the state.
Thus, Vaishnaw has played a crucial role in getting the two parties together, and can further encourage a harmonious relationship between them. There were a number of other BJD leaders, including five-time Bhubaneswar MP Prasanna Patsani and five-time Berhampur MLA Ramesh C.C. Patnaik, both of whom could have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha but were not. Vaishnaw’s selection is essentially aimed at improving center-state relations.
PM Modi and CM Naveen Patnaik have always been on amicable terms, which became apparent during PM Modi’s trip to Odisha after cyclone Fani struck Odisha. During the natural calamity, the centre and the state had acted in conformity, dealing with the disaster pro-actively. The focus was on the citizens and minimizing the damage. PM Modi had been personally involved in the disaster management process and had reviewed the strategies which reassured the Odisha state government that the NDA government was much concerned about Odisha. After dealing with the tragedy, PM Modi had even praised the Odisha CM and BJD leader Naveen Patnaik for his meticulous planning and role in effectively tackling the situation. After this, Naveen Parnaik had written to PM Modi, thanking him for all his help in the wake of the disaster.
Now as is clearly visible, the play here is once again immensely synchronized, with BJP and BJD acting in complete coherence with each other. BJD had the opportunity to embarrass BJP by refusing Ashwini Vaishnaw’s candidature or disallowing him to shift parties but they did not do so. Naveen Patnaik himself came out to specifically clarify Ashwini Vaishnaw was not a BJD candidate but a BJP candidate after he had referred to him as BJD member during the announcement. Moreover, considering that BJD has a staggering majority with 111 members in the Legislative Assembly and BJP has 23, BJD could have easily sent in all 3 members from their own party to the Rajya Sabha unopposed.
However, to Naveen Patnaik led BJD, maintaining centre-state relations is a priority; as he has stated that he has taken this decision of electing Ashwini Vaishnaw to Rajya Sabha, in the “interest of the state”. This is how center and state relations should ideally be, even when the state is led by a different regional party. Politically, Vaishnaw is the man who has played a crucial part in bringing BJP-BJD on cordial terms. Both the parties are drawing support from each other; which is ultimately going to help the citizens.