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Naveen axe fells Nayak

- Vigilance raid on coup ‘epicentre’

Bhubaneswar, June 4: As the war within the BJD appears set to intensify, axe today fell on one more minister whose loyalty had become suspect in the wake of the failed coup against chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

The chief minister announced the dismissal of minister of state for housing, urban development and excise, Sarada Prasad Nayak, saying there was “more than a shadow of corruption” over him. What he appeared to mean, though, was that the minister’s loyalty had become doubtful.

The sacking of Nayak coincided with a vigilance raid on a hotel in Rourkela, the constituency of the minister, where a meeting had allegedly been held over a week ago to organise funds for the coup plan against the chief minister while he was away in London.

The ouster of Nayak, who had twice been elected to the Assembly from Rourkela with the blessings of Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the failed coup leader, follows the dismissal of two other ministers on Friday. The same day the chief minister had also suspended Mohapatra and two MLAs, Prabhat Biswal and Bibhuti Balabantray. Though Nayak had then been spared the axe, his head was on the chopping block as he was suspected to have played a key role in organising the rebellion against the chief minister.

The minister was not only present at the Saheed Nagar residence of Mohapatra on May 29 when the conspiracy to unseat Naveen was being hatched, he is also alleged to have organised funds and logistics to ensure the success of the coup. Mohapatra, who is licking his wounds, immediately sprung to the defence of Nayak saying that his men were being deliberately targeted.

He claimed that the chief minister had rung up Nayak from London on hearing of the so-called coup plan and abused him roundly. “You bloody fellow, I will destroy you,” Naveen had shouted over phone, according to the Rajya Sabha member. Nayak, however, refused to be cowed down and asked the chief minister to mind his language.

The minister, however, reacted rather meekly to his dismissal saying that he had neither conspired against the chief minister nor ever indulged in any kind of corruption. Following his ouster, the housing and urban development portfolio would be handled by the chief minister for the time being while excise would go to finance minister, Prafulla Chandra Ghadei.

Naveen’s latest move seems to have provided fresh ammunition to Mohapatra who, notwithstanding his apparent stoicism, is reported to be trying to regroup his men. The Rajya Sabha member dared the chief minister to order a CBI probe into the wild allegations being levelled against him and said if the agency came up with even a shred of evidence against him he would commit suicide.

Defiant as ever, Mohapatra said he had neither received any suspension order nor did he attach any importance to it as such announcements were not made in the secretariat. “BJD is my party and I continue to be its member,” he asserted ruling out the possibility of floating a new outfit.

Mohapatra, who ruled out a patch up with Naveen saying that the trust between them had been broken for good, also took a dig at the chief minister’s poor Odia. “I had arranged a tutor for him and also given a book to learn the language. But he failed,” he said, adding that people of the state could not hope to benefit from a leader, who could not speak their language.

Denying the coup charge, Mohapatra launched a counter-attack on Naveen saying that the latter had kept his house and his supporters under surveillance and had issued a fatwa to prevent supporters from visiting his house.

Mohapatra’s charges were, however, countered by Naveen loyalists including former minister Damodar Rout, who alleged that the frustrated Rajya Sabha members was spready canards. “The talk of mayors of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar being removed is baseless,” said Rout. The mayors of the two cities also confirmed that there was no pressure on them to resign.