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BJD to Stand Aloof from Grand Alliance

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The Biju Janata Dal President told news agency ANI that the party will continue to remain equidistant from both BJP and the Congress.

On Tuesday, Mr Patnaik was in Delhi to participate in a farmers’ protest held by his party. On being asked on whether he will be joining the Grand Alliance, he said, “As far as Mahagathbandhan is concerned, we will take some time and think it over.”

A day after saying he wanted more time to decide on Grand Alliance, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said Biju Janata Dal will not be a part of the Mahagathbandhan.

“I want to clarify that as far as the Mahagathbandhan is concerned, the Biju Janata Dal is not a part of it,” Mr Patnaik said.

The decision comes amid talks between various parties to form alliances before the crucial 2019 polls.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had started a campaign to build a non-BJP, non-Congress federal front and met Naveen Patnaik and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Both chief ministers made no commitment about their participation in the Federal Front. Mr Patnaik had then refused to answer on whether the BJP or Congress is politically ‘the bigger threat’.

After supporting the NDA in the presidential election, the BJD had switched to the opposition camp in the vice-presidential election, but given the scale of Venkaiah Naidu’s victory, the Odisha Congress had expressed suspicion of cross-voting by the BJD lawmakers.

For the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s election in August, Mr Patnaik’s party supported NDA candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi dialled the Chief Minister. The eight votes of his party helped the government win what would otherwise have been a close-fought election.

The Mahagathbandhan is a proposed group of non-BJP parties, including the Congress, which is aiming to dethrone the Narendra Modi-led government in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.