Bhubaneswar, March 6 (LocalWire):Former Kendrapara MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda’s entry into BJP was not only expected, but it was also eagerly awaited since he quit Biju Janata Dal (BJD) last year following serious differences with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
What was surprising, however, was the long time he took to make up his mind and publicly acknowledge the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
Political analysts believe that the leader, who not very long ago was the intellectual face of BJD in New Delhi, was weighing the pros and cons of taking the saffron plunge.
He decided to switch loyalties only after being convinced about reaping the political dividends of the move.
It is significant to note that he has joined the BJP following a sudden surge in the popularity of the party and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi following Indian air strike at the Balakote terrorist camp inside Pak occupied Kashmir.
The capture of Indian pilot, Abhinandan, instead of dampening the popular nationalist fervour and denting Modi’s image gave a boost to both.
It was, as any political analyst would agree, the most opportune time to ride the saffron bandwagon and contest an election which is knocking at the door.
Even though chief minister, Naveen Patnaik still remains the most popular leader in Odisha there is also a strong under-current in favour of Modi.
Quite a large number of people want to see Patnaik winning a fifth consecutive term in office but they are equally eager to make Modi the Prime Minister of the country for a second time.
“ Naveen in Odisha and Modi in Delhi” is the recurring theme of conversations at tea stalls and betel shops which have always been the barometers of political mood in the state.
Hence Panda seems to have taken the right decision at the right time.
But things are not going to be easy for him if he chooses to contest from his traditional constituency Kendrapara which has the reputation of being a BJD bastion.
In the long history of the constituency the people have hardly ever favoured the BJP. Their aversion towards the Congress has been equally pronounced.
Besides Kendrapara has always treated late Biju Patnaik, father of incumbent chief minister and BJD supremo, Naveen Patnaik as its favourite son.
It was the main theatre of his political activities for a long time.
In fact, it was Biju Babu, more than anyone else, who turned the constituency into a socialist bastion.
Equally significant is the fact that chief minister, Naveen Patnaik would pull out all stops to ensure that Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat remains with his party.
Defeating Panda, his current bête noire, would be a prestige issue for Patnaik.
It was a similar dislike for former ministers, Dilip Ray and Bijay Mohapatra, both currently without any party affiliations, which had made him go all out against them in the past.
That is bound to make things difficult for Panda if he insists on contesting from Kendrapara, a seat dear to him because of the way he has nurtured it and the fact that he still has some sympathisers within the BJD there.
Finding an alternative seat would be an equally daunting task for the former MP who then seems to have hardly any other option than contesting from Kendrapara.