Panda was welcomed into the party fold by Oil Minister Dharmedra Pradhan, BJP’s prominent Odisha face. Soon after joining the party, Panda met BJP president Amit Shah.
“I welcome my friend Baijayant Jay Panda into the BJP family. His popularity and connect with the Odia youth will further strengthen the surge of the BJP in Odisha,” Pradhan said after Panda officially joined the saffron party.
Panda hit out at the BJD government in Odisha saying the governance under Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has deteriorated sharply in the state.
“Nine months of introspection & widespread consultations w/colleagues & public. Grateful for support recd from all over. On auspicious #MahaShivratri I’ve decided to join @BJP4India & work under the leadership of @narendramodi Ji to serve Odisha & India to the best of my ability,” Panda tweeted.
Nine months of introspection & widespread consultations w/colleagues & public.
Grateful for support recd from all over.
On auspicious #MahaShivratri I’ve decided to join @BJP4India & work under the leadership of @narendramodi Ji to serve Odisha & India to the best of my ability🙏
— Baijayant Jay Panda (@PandaJay) March 4, 2019
The Assembly poll in Odisha is likely to be held along with the parliamentary elections, and the BJP hopes that the presence of Panda will brighten its prospects, especially in coastal Odisha.
Odisha has 21 parliamentary constituencies and the BJD had won 20 of them in 2014. The BJP had won only one seat — Sundargarh, represented by Union minister for tribal affairs Jual Oram.
The BJP has identified Odisha as one of the priority states ahead of the polls. In the 2017 state rural elections, the BJP emerged as the second largest party, pushing the Congress to the third spot.
Panda, who had a bitter falling out with the BJD chief Naveen Patnaik, had recently said that he is willing to join hands with anybody “committed to tackling the severe problems that Odisha now faces”.
At the time of his suspension from the parent party, Panda was thought to be leaning towards the BJP. Not having campaigned for BJD candidates in elections to panchayati raj institutions even in his own constituency, Panda was accused of indulging in “anti-party activities”, supporting opposition candidates.
In his parting letter to the BJD chief, Panda said it was “irrefutable clear that the party wants me out”.
“It is with deep anguish, hurt and sorrow that I have decided to quit the kind of politics into which our BJD has descended,” Panda wrote at the time.