The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Friday conveyed a strong message to the Opposition, with its members staging a walkout even before the debate on no-confidence motion against the government could begin in the Lok Sabha.
The BJD has 19 members in Lok Sabha after resignation of its member Jay Panda.
The BJD has carefully maintained its distance from both the Opposition and the government camps. In keeping with its free agent image, it decided to not participate in Friday's debate. It has not supported or participated in any of the Opposition programmes.
Before leaving the House, floor leader of the party Bhartruhari Mahtab said that neither the 10 years of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government nor the four years of the National Democratic Alliance rule benefited Odisha. Since this debate was not relevant to their State and its people, they saw little point in participating in it.
In the run-up to the no-trust motion, the Congress had opened a line of communication with the BJD. Odisha has many raging disputes with its neighbour Andhra Pradesh — from river water disputes to the Kolab power project. And supporting the Telugu Desam Party could have been construed as conceding the State's own interest.
BJP's rising stakes in Odisha
The BJD is equally wary of the Amit Shah-led BJP, which has been steadily increasing its footprint in the State, slowly trying to push the lead Opposition party Congress to the third rung. In the last Assembly elections in 2014, the BJP had 18% vote share. And in the Lok Sabha polls that was held simultaneously, the BJP got 21% vote share and they were in second position in 13 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.
Their walking out, however, is a stronger signal to the Opposition since they effectively now have reduced the strength of the House. Had they abstained, their numbers would have been counted.
With this move, Chief Minister M Naveen Patnaik has clearly indicated that he will not he part of any Opposition front, at least for now.