Odisha Chief Minister and president of ruling BJD Naveen Patnaik said that he has an ‘amiable’ relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi though his party considers BJP as its main rival in the coastal state. Patnaik and his party which used to make allegations of central negligence against the central government’s in Delhi, also admitted that Odisha now gets “good cooperation” from the Centre for “development and welfare of our state”. The chief minister said this during an interaction programme at Odisha Literary Festival (OLF) organised by the The New Indian Express here Sunday. “Yes, it is amiable,” Patnaik said while replying to a question whether he has friendly relations with the Prime Minister.
On whether the federal structure of the country is under threat, Patnaik said: “As far as I and my government are concerned, we have a constructive relationship with the Centre. Our concern is only the development and welfare of our state. And the Centre cooperates with us on that”. Patnaik’s statement is politically significant as some of the regional parties and chief ministers of Congress-ruled states have raised voices against the Centre and accused the Narendra Modi government of breaching federal norms while dealing with non-BJP states. Even Patnaik himself used to make such allegations during the previous UPA government.
Till 2019, the BJD claimed to have been maintaining an “equidistance” from Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA. However, the BJD’s equation with the NDA apparently changed after Patnaik supported BJP candidate Ashiwini Vaishnaw in the Rajya Sabha elections in 2020, prompting the opposition Congress to describe the BJD and the BJP as “two sides of the same coin”.
On the results of the by-poll in the Dhamnagar assembly constituency, Patnaik said he respects the verdict of the people. BJP’s Suryabanshi Suraj defeated BJD’s Abanti Das in Dhamnagar by-elections, winning by a margin of 9,881 votes. “The MLA of Dhamnagar had died recently. He was very popular. His son was given a ticket. The BJP had held this seat for several years. So it was expected that they will win the seat”, he said.
However, in recent panchayat and urban polls, the ruling party had performed very well, the BJD president said. In the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls due in 2024, Patnaik said BJP will be the main political rival of the BJD as Congress has weakened in the state.