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BJD, BJP leaders unsure about retaining seats; Naveen Patnaik sends messenger to Delhi

NEW DELHI: After the ruling BJD and opposition BJP held separate meetings to discuss the possibility of forging an alliance before the upcoming elections for the Lok Sabha and state assembly, none of the parties are forthcoming about whether the parties would contest together after more than a decade.

Odisha Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik on Thursday evening sent his close aide V K Pandian and the party’s organisational secretary Pranab Prakash Das to New Delhi for a discussion with the BJP top brass.

Details of the discussion, however, are not yet known.

Though senior BJD leaders said after the meeting on Wednesday that the party’s decision would be in the ”larger interest of the state”, a number of legislators were unsure whether they could contest the next elections.

”Nobody has any idea whether he or she would be able to contest. Any seat may fall in the share of either party,” said a BJD leader who attended the meeting at Naveen Niwas, the residence of chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik.

Even very senior leaders of the BJD were not sure whether they could contest from their existing seats, he said, adding that the party’s electoral alliance was broken exactly 15 years ago on March 8, 2009, following the BJP’s demand for more seats.

Though both parties have so far agreed on principle to go for alliance, the seat sharing between the two parties is yet to be finalised.

BJD insiders said that the ruling party, which has 114 members in the 147-member Odisha Assembly, would like to retain its seats in the alliance while BJP has been demanding 55 seats.

While BJD wants at least 112 assembly seats leaving the remaining 35 for the BJP, it has not been accepted by the leaders of the saffron party.

Before the idea of the alliance came to the fore, BJD leader Sasmit Patra had claimed that the regional party would win in 120 seats.

The BJP, which has 8 MPs in the Lok Sabha from Odisha, in turn, has been demanding 14 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state. But the BJD is ready to concede only 10, sources said.

”Whatever decision our central and state leadership take, we will abide by that,” Lekhasree Samantsinghar, Odisha BJP’s vice-president, said adding that the entire BJP state leadership including its president Manmohan Samal has been camping in Delhi.

BJP sources said that the state leaders held a marathon discussion at the residence of Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, the BJP election in-charge for Odisha.

The state BJP leaders were told to stay for one or two more days in the national capital till seat sharing is finalised.

The BJD and the BJP were in alliance for around 11 years between 1998 and 2009 and fought three Lok Sabha and two assembly elections together.

When Janata Dal was split in 1998, Patnaik formed his own party and joined the Vajpayee-led BJP government, as the steel and mines minister.

The two parties fought assembly polls together for the first time in 2000 and again in 2004.

Earlier, the seat sharing ratio between BJD and BJP was 4:3. While BJD contested 84 assembly and 12 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP fought in 63 assembly and 9 Lok Sabha seats.

The alliance won 17 of 21 seats in the 1998 general elections with a 48.7 per cent vote share. The alliance again bettered their tally to 19 seats in 1999, which slightly came down to 18 in 2004.

Source: Press Trust of India

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