Opinion Poll Predicts Big Gains For BJP In Odisha; Baijayant Panda Not Convinced

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Bhubaneswar: Former Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda on Tuesday dismissed an opinion poll, predicting huge gains for BJP in Odisha in Lok Sabha elections scheduled next year, and termed it as ‘audacious’.

The saffron party has been hoping to make inroads in Odisha with its 120 plus target, riding high on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and prevailing anti-incumbency against the BJD. The ABP News-C Voter ‘Desh ka Mood’ survey reflected this mood in the BJP camp as it gave the party 16 out of the total 21 Lok Sabha seats, reducing the regional force to six.

Taking to Twitter, Baijayant, who had resigned from BJD in May after being suspended from the primary membership of the party in January, wondered if the challenger had the stomach to truly take on the incumbent.

It appeared as a veiled attack on BJP for not doing enough to challenge the BJD on issues of crime and corruption. The Prime Minister during his Odisha visit on Monday had taken the middle path, mixing caution and aggression while criticising the BJD dispensation. He did not utter Naveen Patnaik’s name but posed unpleasant questions to the state government.

According to political observers, Baijayant’s remarks also reflected his frustration with the saffron party bosses keeping his fate in balance on joining BJP even as others such as former bureaucrat Aparajita Sarangi has been inducted into the party amid much fanfare.

Speculation has long been ripe about Baijayant being positively inclined on the saffron party, though he has remained tight-lipped on the issue. This had even led to his ouster from the BJD.

Naveen’s one-time confidante-turned-rival, Baijayant, started shifting his ideological loyalty to Modi and the Sangha Parivar after the 2014 general elections.

As a columnist, he generously heaped praises on several policy decisions of the Modi government and was often seen hobnobbing with the right wing ‘elites’ in Delhi. His close association with the right wing camp had once made a journalist suggest on Twitter that PM Modi should appoint him to a Cabinet position.

Baijayant got a cold shoulder from BJD to the extent that none from the party, including its chief, attended the last rites of this father, industrialist Bansidhar Panda, who died on May 22.

In his three-page resignation letter, he had described it as the proverbial last straw.

However, the waiting game continues for the three-time lawmaker. A day ahead of PM’s visit to Odisha, Baijayant tried to downplay it by saying that it was irrelevant whether he joined a political party or formed a new one as fighting against various issues plaguing the state was more important.

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