Senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and Lok Sabha MP from Kendrapara (Odisha), Baijayant Jay Panda, who was suspended from the party this week, may join the Bharatiya Janata Party.

According to sources, Panda has been hobnobbing with the BJP for the last few months and suspension from the BJD has given him the option to join the saffron brigade in the coastal state. BJP leaders say that the party is in a “good position” to give a tough fight to the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD in the coming Assembly elections, which are expected to coincide with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Sources, however, indicated that Panda may not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Kendrapara in case he opts to join the BJP.

“The seat has traditionally been with the BJD. It will be difficult for him to win from there. If he joins the BJP, he will prefer to contest from some other constituency in Odisha,” said a source.

Odisha state BJP president Basanta Kumar Panda did not rule out the possibility of Jay Panda joining the BJP. “Though he has not approached us, any ‘good person’ who subscribes to the ideology of the BJP and accepts the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national president Amit Shah, will be welcome to the party. If he expresses his desire, his case will definitely be discussed within the party forum,” Panda said while speaking to this newspaper.

Basanta Panda, however, said the incident (of suspending Jay Panda from BJD) indicates that all is not well within the party. “There is no democracy within the BJD. The party is being run by officers and good leaders are being sidelined under BJD leader and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Imagine a situation when a senior party leader is removed just because he says something,” said the state BJP chief.

With anti-incumbency of more than 17 years setting in against the Naveen Patnaik government, and BJP gradually consolidating its position in the state, many leaders from the BJD and Congress have started making way towards the BJP.

The BJP is also upbeat because of its improved performance in the panchayat elections last year. In the panchayat elections, the BJP emerged as the major gainer by becoming the second largest party in the rural areas of Odisha, pushing the Congress to the third position.

The BJD, however, won a majority of seats. While the BJD won 460 out of 851 seats, the BJP got 306 seats and Congress 66. In the 2012 panchayat elections, the Congress had won 128 seats.

The Congress suffered a shock as family members of the late Congress leader Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra (Lulu), including his daughter Upasana and brother Lalitendu and their supporters, joined the BJP last year.

A former BJD MLA Ashok Kumar Panigrahi also joined the BJP. Panigrahi was suspended from the party after he contested the 2014 elections as an independent candidate from the Bijepur Assembly constituency.

According to a state BJP leader, this is the first time people are getting united against Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. “In the panchayat elections, BJP got the second position and now we are confident that we will soon become the number one party,” he pointed out.

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