03/09/2009, 00.00
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Crisis in Orissa government, alliance broken between Biju Janata Dal and BJP Hindus

by Nirmala Carvalho
The two parties had been in league for eleven years. The split arose from disagreement over the division of seats in the upcoming April elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party could risk losing control of the state. Christians are skeptical: the fanatics have already been put in key administrative posts. The situation of the refugees is becoming more grave.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is breaking its historical alliance with the Hindus of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Orissa, creating more unanswered questions about the April elections for the renewal of the state government and of representatives in the Lok Sabha, the national "House of the People."

From 1998 until today, the two parties had always run together in local elections, and their alliance also extended to the national level in the last two electoral rounds (2000 and 2004), in which the BJD obtained great success in Orissa by winning the government of Bhubaneshwar alongside the BJP. The Bharatiya Janata Party is also the party of reference for all the Hindu extremist fringes, responsible for the well-known massacres against the Christians.

The decade-long agreement was broken by Naveen Patnaik, leader and founder of the BJD and chief minister of Orissa, over disagreements with the party's historical allies over the distribution of seats in the April elections.

The governor of Orissa, Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, has asked Patnaik to submit his government to a confidence vote in order to verify the solidity of the coalition after the rupture with the BJP. The vote is expected to take place on March 11, and the leader of the BJD insists that he can remain in control. Patnaik is believed to have the support of members of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), independent members of parliament, and even one of the BJP.

The Hindu party has reacted harshly, fearing the effect on the upcoming elections. Lal Krishna Advani, leader of the BJP, believes that the end has come for the experience in Orissa of the National Democratic Alliance, a coalition of multiple anti-Congress Party formations deployed in the latest elections in 2004. Happy with the breakup, the Marxists of the CPI are proposing the formation of a third coalition with the BJD, an alternative to the BJP and to the NCP, convinced that it could receive the most votes.

Despite the decision of the BJD to abandon the Hindu nationalists, the local Christian community does not see much hope in the political future of this state. Interviewed by AsiaNews, one source who prefers to remain anonymous explains: "During the long rule of the coalition government in Orissa, the rank and file of the state machinery were thoroughly infiltrated with communal elements with the Hinduvta ideological bigots, now, even though the BJP has withdrawn support to the BJD government, the communal forces are well entrenched in their places and it may be impossible to 'de-saffronize' them."

Meanwhile, the situation of the refugees in Orissa is becoming increasingly dramatic. The source for AsiaNews, back from a visit to Kandhamal, says that they are "on the verge of starvation." There are still 3,000 of them in the centers set up by the government, but many more spread out in little camps "which have police security but are not being provided with government rations." There are also 12,000 refugees who have "migrated to Bhubaneshwar and are living in slums and shanties and using the meagre government compensation to pay rents. These people are terrified of returning to villages." Those who escaped the anti-Christian pogroms in August and September "live with constant threat to their lives . . . how will they survive?"

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