Two days after he quit the ruling BJD, Balabhadra Majhi, sitting MP from Nabarangpur, crossed over to BJP on Saturday. He became the third big leader associated with BJD to have defected to the saffron party. Before him, Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, who was once BJD’s face in New Delhi, and Damodar Rout, a former state minister and close aide of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, joined BJP.
Soon after he joined BJP at its national headquarters in New Delhi, Balabhadra told the media, “I felt ignored and unwanted in BJD even though I gave my 100 per cent to my constituency. I am now in BJP so that I can serve my area in a more effective manner.”
BJP sources said their party was likely to field Balabhadra in Nabarangpur that he represented in the Lok Sabha on behalf of BJD earlier. Prior to his defection to BJP, there were reports that BJD would replace Balabhadra with Ramesh Majhi, sitting MLA from Jharigam, in Nabarangpur, a scheduled tribe-reserved seat.
In 2014, Balabhadra had left the Railways where he worked as an engineer, to join politics. “His popularity in tribal areas will help us immensely,” Union minister Jual Oram said. His ministerial colleague, Dharmendra Pradhan, too, said Balabhadra’s joining would strengthen BJP in the state.
Looking unperturbed, state finance minister Shashi Bhusan Behera said, “Such things (desertions) keep happening during elections. Decisions of individual leaders will not have any impact on BJD’s poll prospects.”
If BJD lost Balabhadra to BJP, it got Harischandra Panda, a nephew of the saffron party’s state chief, Basanta Panda, into its fold.