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BJD splinter jolt to Centre

New Delhi, April 23: In a jolt to the NDA and Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik, the faction-ridden Biju Janata Dal parliamentary party today split, with four Lok Sabha MPs writing to Speaker Manohar Joshi requesting for separate seating arrangements in the House.

They are likely to quit the NDA also, sources said, and a decision to this effect will be taken in May at the steering committee meeting of the Orissa Jana Shakti, comprising a splinter group of the BJD and erstwhile socialists in the Janata Parivar, in Kendrapara.

The four rebels — Prabhat Kumar Samantray, Kumudini Patnaik, wife of former state finance minister Ramakrushna Patnaik, Prasanna Patsani and Jagannath Mallick — handed over a letter to the Speaker this morning requesting him to allocate separate seats to them.

In September last year, these MPs, together with two others — Prasanna Acharya and Bhartuhari Mahatab — had revolted against BJD chief Naveen Patnaik by electing Acharya as parliamentary party leader in place of Naveen loyalist and water resources minister Arjun Charan Sethi.

Of the six, four were against continuing in the NDA, while Acharya and Mahatab did not want to withdraw support from the Vajpayee government.

The duo, who had spearheaded the revolt against Sethi, has adopted a wait-and-watch policy. “Myself and Mahatab have not signed the letter submitted by the four rebels to the Speaker. We are carefully watching the developments,” Acharya said.

Asked when the group will announce its formal split from the NDA, Samantray said: “We will not take any unilateral decision. We will announce our decision at the Orissa Jana Shakti steering committee meeting in Kendrapara sometime in May.”

Samantray said the Jana Shakti’s April 6 rally in Rourkela had drawn a huge crowd despite the temperature soaring to 41-42 degree Celsius. It shows that the people are getting disillusioned with the policies of Naveen Patnaik, he said.

“We gave a letter to the Speaker this morning for separate seats. He is likely to take a decision in this regard very soon,” Patsani told reporters.

The BJD has 10 members in the Lower House. Of the four who revolted today, Naveen had expelled Samantray, Patnaik and Mallick for anti-party activities following the September revolt.

Ramakrushna was sacked from the ministry due to differences with the chief minister.

Last year, the three expelled members joined hands with Acharya, Mahatab and Patsani to cancel Sethi’s chances of taking over as the party’s Lok Sabha leader. Based on a unanimous resolution by the six rebel MPs, the Speaker subsequently recognised Acharya as BJD parliamentary party leader and Mahatab was made the chief whip.

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