BJD, Once BJP’s Friend In Need, Joins Opposition’s Rajya Sabha Walkout

The Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD), once the BJP’s friend in need whose support helped several contentious Bills clear Rajya Sabha during Modi 2.0, were on the other side today. The party’s nine MPs joined the Opposition’s walkout during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reply to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address.

The walkout in the Upper House today followed the Prime Minister’s swipe at former UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. “These people are used to running the government on auto pilot and remote pilot. They don’t believe in working, they just know how to wait,” he said, triggering loud protests from the Opposition.

Opposition MPs led by Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge requested Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar for permission to intervene, but the Chair responded that their conduct was “inappropriate”.

As the Opposition members walked out, MPs of the BJD joined them.

Over the past one year, the Naveen Patnaik-led party has gone from backing the BJP on contentious Bills in Rajya Sabha to almost forging an alliance with the BJP ahead of the state and Lok Sabha polls to losing power in Odisha to the BJP. The party scored a blank in Lok Sabha election — losing 12 seats in the House — and ended up in the Opposition after Mr Patnaik’s 24-year uninterrupted stint as Chief Minister of the eastern state.

Some of the key issues and legislation on which the BJP government had received the BJD’s support were the Centre’s move to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcate it into two Union Territories, amendments to anti-terror law UAPA and Right To Information Act, and the law that gave Delhi Lieutenant Governor full control on the capital’s officials.

Throughout this time, the BJD had maintained that it was equidistant from the BJP and the Congress and was only extending issue-based support to the Centre.

However, weeks after the BJP dealt his party a massive defeat, Mr Patnaik asked BJD’s nine Rajya Sabha MPs to emerge as a “vibrant and strong” opposition.

According to a PTI report, BJD’s leader in the Upper House Sasmit Patra said that the party’s MPs are determined to agitate if the Centre ignores Odisha’s interests. “The BJD MPs this time will not be confined to speaking on issues only, but are determined to agitate if the BJP-led government at the Centre ignores Odisha’s interests.” He said Mr Patnaik has given clear instructions to BJD MPs to fight for the rights of the state’s people in the Parliament.

“No more support to BJP, only opposition. We may go to any extent to protect the interests of Odisha. The BJD president asked us to act as a strong and vibrant opposition if the NDA government continues to ignore the genuine demands of Odisha,” Mr Patra told PTI.

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