Uncertainty over the pre-poll alliance between the ruling Biju Janata Dal and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is looming large in the minds of the leaders and workers of both parties in Odisha.

Although both parties have started preparing for the forthcoming simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, speculation is rife about whether the two would join hands and fight the polls by sharing the seats or go to the polls independently in the event of not having a formal alliance.

As talks of alliance hangs in balance, the workers of both parties are waiting with baited breath to know whether they will fight against each other or be friends in the elections that are scheduled to be held in four phases: May 13, May 20, May 25, and June 1.

The Odisha unit of the BJP has prepared its list of candidates for all 21 Lok Sabha seats and 147 Assembly seats in the State, despite the fact that State BJP president Manmohan Samal had said earlier that a final decision about the party’s poll strategy for the State would be taken by the central leadership.

Reason for delay

The delay in clearing their stands is being attributed to the differences over the sharing of seats, as the BJD is not keen to concede much space to the saffron party with regard to the Assembly seats. The BJD has 12 Lok Sabha and 111 Assembly seats, while the BJP has eight Lok Sabha and 22 Assembly seats at present.

The talks about the alliance between the two erstwhile alliance partners started after Prime Minister Narendra Modi refrained from attacking the BJD government during his two recent visits to the State. The BJD has been supporting his government in Parliament over all major issues for the past five years.

Modi termed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as his ‘Mitra’ (friend) at a meeting at Sambalpur on February 3 and addressed him as “popular Chief Minister” at a meeting at Chandikhole in Jajpur district on March 5, the birth anniversary of former Chief Minister late Biju Patnaik. Modi had also paid tribute to Biju Babu on the occasion.

Patnaik, who attended both meetings, had appreciated the Prime Minister for setting a new direction for the country to make it an economic powerhouse.

The bonhomie between the two parties was also displayed in public when the former supported Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for his election to the Rajya Sabha for the second time last month.

On the other hand, the BJD is optimistic about its prospects without an alliance with the BJP since Patnaik continues to remain hugely popular with the announcement of various welfare schemes benefiting all sections of the population.

New milestone

Patnaik himself chaired a Cabinet meeting minutes before the poll dates were announced and asserted that Odisha will create a “new milestone in Indian politics,” reflecting confidence about returning to power for a record sixth term. “In a few months, the people of Odisha are going to create a new record in the political history of this country,” Patnaik said.

The only positive outcome of the talk of an alliance with the BJP for the ruling party is that it seems to have helped the BJD combat anti-incumbency. For the moment, however, the voters as well as the workers of both parties are confused about whether they will fight as allies or competitors.