New Delhi (India), August 8 : The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, which helped the government in getting crucial bills and measures, including on Jammu and Kashmir, passed in the just concluded Parliament session, has chosen a role of "constructive support" for itself breaking from its previous stand of maintaining equi-distance from the BJP and the Congress.
"Maintaining equi-distance is something of the past. I can only say about BJD. It was a constructive opposition in the 16th Lok Sabha. This time we have said whichever government comes to power, if it would be beneficial for the state, we will support that government. We are now in the role of constructive support," senior BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab told .
He said supporting a government that works in the national interest and supports the legitimate rights of Odisha has been a stated position of the BJD since the 2019 general elections were announced.
"Equi-distance was in the 16th Lok Sabha elections. We have come out of all this during the campaign also. Our leader Navin Patnaik stated this position very clearly during his election campaign," the BJD veteran said.
The BJD's role in the just-concluded Parliament session helped the government pass the triple talaq, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment and the RTI amendment bills.
It also came out in support of the Centre's resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir in both houses of Parliament.
Getting these bills and resolutions passed in Rajya Sabha is being seen as a major legislative victory for the BJP-led NDA government as it lacks majority in the House. The Congress-led opposition had so far dominated in the Upper House.
Justifying the party's stand on the contentious bills, Mahtab said the entire country wanted abrogation of Article 370 and 35A.
"The whole country wanted it should go. In that respect cutting across the party lines many political parties opposed to BJP supported the bill and so did the BJD," Mahtab said adding that the Article 370 was a major roadblock for last several years in the development of Jammu and Kashmir.
Article 370 and 35-A, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, were scrapped by the Centre and the measures were approved by Parliament over Monday and Tuesday.
Participating in the debate in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, the BJD leaders welcomed government's move, saying the Jammu and Kashmir has become an integral part of India in the "true sense" with the changes made to Article 370.
The BJD, which had earlier opposed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill that makes instant triple talaq a criminal offense, supported this time. The bill was passed with 99 votes in favour and 84 against.
Although, the BJD helped the government in the 17th Lok Sabha in getting the bills passed, Mahtab raised questions over their hurried passage without proper scrutiny.
"Government will undoubtedly say this was a very productive session. The number of bills that were deliberated in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha did not go through the scrutiny of the standing committee. They should have gone for scrutiny which is essential. But that was not done," he said.
Asked whether the government succeeded in passing the bills due to its brute majority in Lok Sabha and a week opposition, the veteran parliamentarian said the numbers were not so important. It is the quality which matters in parliamentary democracy.
"I will not say that it was due to brute majority. The government was successful in getting the bills passed. But for the proper functioning of parliamentary democracy scrutiny of bills is necessary. The bills should be scrutinised by the standing committee," he said.
He said the opposition was also not so weak in terms of numbers.
"They are no less. They are around 200. But the number is not an issue. It is quality that matters. In parliamentary democracy it is not only the numbers," he said.
On being asked about the government getting support from non-NDA and non-UPA parties like BSP, YSRCP and others, Mahtab said this was another way the government has carved out for getting support.
"I would say a new road has been carved out by this government," he said.
The BJD was in alliance with BJP for nearly a decade and both shared power in the state from 2000-2009. The regional party snapped ties with the saffron party on the eve of 2009 elections. Thereafter, it had maintained distance from both the BJP and the Congress.
BJD's stand in Parliament was criticised by the Congress accused the party of tilting towards the BJP-led NDA front at the Centre.
In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP and the BJD were in a close contest in most of the 21 parliamentary seats of Odisha. The BJD's numbers came down to 12 from 20 while BJP won eight seats. This was a significant gain for the saffron party from the one seat that it had won in 2014.
( With inputs from ANI )