| Pyari Mohan Mohapatra |
Bhubaneswar, May 31: A growing sense of insecurity and an out-of-reach leader was apparently what led to the failed coup by frustrated BJD ministers and MLAs against chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
The coup leader, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, driven by his own frustration at his sudden marginalisation in the party, which he once used to control with an iron hand, was not only was keenly aware of the fears haunting this section of BJD leaders, he also tried to take full advantage of it.
This group, too, responded spontaneously to Mohapatra’s call for a meeting at his Saheed Nagar residence on Tuesday to discuss “party issues” as he had always been for them the hands-on boss from whom they took orders and to whom they brought their problems for resolution.
At least 33 MLAs, mostly handpicked by him, turned up at his residence that day. Though the numbers thinned to a mere six when realisation dawned that they did not have the requisite strength to effect a coup and that Naveen, who was away in London, was rushing back to Bhubaneswar, there was no denying the frustration among the legislators.
Unlike Mohapatra, Naveen had always the faraway leader, who spoke and understood little Odia and had no patience for long sessions with them. “He never bothered himself with the nitty gritty of running the party or even the administration. Be they ministers or MLAs, Naveen, more often than not, was inaccessible to them having left the job of listening and addressing their grievances to Mohapatra,” said a BJD leader on condition of anonymity.
While the sensitive among the MLAs and ministers felt disappointed at not being able to reach Naveen easily, what heightened their sense of frustration was the fact that bureaucrats, who exercised a lot of influence on the chief minister, had begun to treat them with contempt, refusing to oblige them even in small matters.
“Nothing can be more frustrating for an MLA, who needs small favours from bureaucrats almost every day to get his work done. But, here the situation is such that even ministers have to run to the chief secretary for their work,” said a leader.
For the frustrated party leaders, Mohapatra was a saviour in these circumstances. Having played a long innings as an IAS officer, he not only knew the bureaucracy inside out, but also wielded a lot of influence among the officers at the top. He was a go-getter, who could get their work done.
But when Mohapatra, following differences with the chief minister on a raft of issues, including the choice of candidate for the Athgarh by-election, was marginalised within the party, he started working on the fears and frustration of these leaders.
He could have got more of them on his side but for the fact that elections are only two years away and many did not want to risk their careers by taking part in the coup. They realised that unlike in the past when Mohapatra managed the elections on behalf of the party, taking care of almost everything from distribution of tickets to working out the campaign strategy, he may have little or no role to play in such matters the next time.
Hence, only two types of leaders decided to throw their lot with Mohapatra when the coup plan was set rolling. While one set consisted of fierce loyalists such as Pravat Biswal, the other included ministers such as Anjali Behera and Sanjeev Sahu, who appear to have been living in a perennial state of panic for the past sometime with their names mired in controversies. “They have been fearing the worst. They realise that the axe may fall on them any day,” said a source.
The achievement of Mohapatra lay in cleverly heightening their sense of insecurity and convincing them that none but him could come to their rescue in their hour of crisis. However, with the coup having failed, the former advisor-in-chief of the chief minister must have realised that more than anyone else it is he who needs a saviour now.