Naveen survives leadership revolt

The year turned out to be contentious for Naveen Patnaik-led ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, as the chief minister faced the serious threat to his leadership from Rajya Sabha MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, considered since long the number two in the regional outfit.

The bureaucrat-turned-politico was also known as Patnaik’s mentor and chief advisor for more than a decade now.

On the night of May 29, Bhubaneswar witnessed hectic political activities as Mohapatra, sidelined by his protégé for the last few months, virtually attempted a coup to topple the Patnaik government and capture power. Many party MLAs including few ministers were seen visiting Mohapatra’s Saheed Nagar residence and putting their signatures on a paper extending their support to the Rajya Sabha MP.

By surprise

The revolt took place at a time when Patnaik was in London on an official trip. The turn of event had caught Patnaik and his close associates by surprise.

However, the revolt fizzled out when many of the party MLAs who had thrown their lot behind Mohapatra switched sides and declared their support to Patnaik after he cut
short his foreign trip and rushed back to the state capital to take control of
the situation. Realising that he is not having the adequate number of party MLAs on his side, the rebel leader retreated and claimed that he had no intension of toppling the Patnaik administration.

With support of majority of the party leaders and legislators behind him, Patnaik wasted no time in cracking the whip on Mohapatra and suspended him from the primary membership of the party. Two party MLAs close to him — Prabhat Biswal and Bibhuti Balwantrai — received the boot too.

The chief minister also dropped three ministers including a lady minister Anjali Behera from his council of ministers for their reported role in the attempted coup.

Though Patnaik managed to defuse the crisis, the entire episode dented his personal as well as party’s public image. For, never before since the formation of the regional outfit fifteen years back, the party had encountered such a situation.

Political outfit

Mohapatra, who was subsequently dismissed from the BJD, has already formed an organisation called Odisha Jan Morcha (OJM) which is expected to be turned into a political outfit before the 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

At the moment the dismissed BJD rebel lacks the strength to put the ruling regional outfit on the mat as he has not been able to rope in any party MLA or MP or any senior leader into his organisation. Even the two MLAs who were suspended from the party for siding with Mohapatra have distanced themselves from him in an attempt to impress Patnaik and get back their party membership.

However, observers do not rule out the possibility of Mohapatra creating problem for BJD in the coming days, particularly during the 2014 elections, if he decides to field his candidates.

If not win, at least they may be able to eat away some of the BJD votes which will ultimately help the opposition Congress party.

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