Former Biju Janata Dal MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda who was first suspended and then quit the party last year after being marginalized in the organization is expected to join BJP on Monday.
Top BJP sources in Bhubaneswar confirmed that Panda, who stewarded Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat till his resignation from Lok Sabha last year, would join the party in the presence of PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah in Delhi in the evening. Panda did not react to messages from HT seeking confirmation.
BJP national secretary Suresh Pujari told he is yet to get any official confirmation. “The discussion was going on for last 2-3 months. If any development has taken place, then the top central leadership would surely be aware. Baijayant would any day be an asset for BJP,” stated Pujari.
The BJD brushed down the news. BJD MP Prasanna Acharya said Panda was free to join whichever party he likes. “His joining BJP would no way impact BJD’s popularity in the polls. In the past several people have left BJD. But the regional party has become more and more popular,” said Acharya.
Panda, who won from Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency in 2014 on BJD ticket, was first postponed in January last year over charges of anti-party activities. He subsequently retired from the party as well as Lok Sabha in May and June last year following serious differences with the chief minister.
The articulate and widely networked MP became the most obvious face of BJD’s dissenters in mid-2017 after he called for ‘introspection’ in the wake of BJP’s sterling performance in 2017 panchayat elections. Since Modi became PM, Panda has been accumulating praise on him while questioning Patnaik’s working style.
Though he was all stable to join BJP sometime last year, things did not work out. In the last few months, Panda was toying with the idea of floating a regional party as well as joining Congress.
BJP sources told Panda would not be contesting the Lok Sabha polls but would try to get BJD votes split into 30-40 Assembly constituencies in the upcoming Assembly elections that would be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls this year.
Panda’s wife Jagi Mangat Panda heads OTV, the most popular TV news channel in Odisha. Of late the channel has been at the receiving end of the government’s displeasure with its reporters refused entry to cover the World Cup hockey tournament late last year.