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BJD opens doors to Biju loyalists

Bhubaneswar, June 6: The BJD, jolted by the failed coup against chief minister Naveen Patnaik, plans to reinforce itself by welcoming back members of the larger Biju Parivar, a euphemism to describe disgruntled leaders thrown out of the party in the past.

Making it clear that such a move was afoot, finance minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei, who is also BJD vice-president, today said the party would throw its doors open to the Biju loyalists as their entry so far was being blocked by Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the failed coup leader.

“He was running the party on behalf of the chief minister and had become a stumbling block for many,” said Ghadei, hinting at the changes in the offing.

Health minister Prasanna Acharya also dropped hints in this regard, saying that many leaders, who had become inactive over the years, were expected to reactivate themselves.

Many followers of late Biju Patnaik, father of Naveen, after whom the ruling party is named, have since the formation of BJD in 1997, either migrated to other political parties or been sidelined within the party because of intense factional fights.

While some were forced to leave following differences with Naveen himself, others made their exit in the wake of controversial confrontations with Mohapatra, who had been calling the shots in the party for all these years.

One of the first leaders to quit the BJD following a face-off with the chief minister, who was then being guided and advised by Mohapatra, was former minister Bijoy Mohapatra, who is in the BJP. Ever since being thrown out of the BJD in 2000, he has not been able to win a single Assembly election so far.

Another leader to make his exit from the party under similar circumstances was former Union minister Dilip Ray, who after being progressively marginalised contested and won Rajya Sabha election from the state in 2002 as an Independent. After a short stint in the Congress, he switched over to the BJP where he has been marking time.

Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Jena, who switched over to the Congress soon after the death of Biju Patnaik, is also seen as a member of the larger Biju Parivar though his soaring ambitions may make many in the existing BJD feel jittery about the prospects of his return.

Sources said the chief minister, having learnt his lessons in the wake of the failed mutiny, may now shed some of his past bias against the leaders with whom he had had differences and might welcome them back into the party. “The party needs to be strengthened and we will do our best to ensure that all those, who had to go either because of the machinations of Mohapatra or his wrong advice to the chief minister, return to its fold,” said a senior leader.

At the same time, the chief minister and his loyalists are missing no opportunity to demonstrate their strength in public. Sources said chief minister’s yesterday’s visit to Cuttack was part of this exercise.

On the other hand, party leaders and workers in different parts of the state have been expressing their loyalty to the chief minister by passing resolutions or through signature campaigns.

Reports reaching here said that 21 BJD councillors of Rourkela Municipality today expressed their loyalty to the party president.

In another development, the state leadership of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has criticised the party MLAs, who joined the BJD yesterday, describing them as opportunists.

“The party had given them identity, but now, they have ditched it for their own gains,” said NCP state unit president Utkal Kesari Parida. The party’s national general secretary Tariq Anwar also slammed the rebels, who switched loyalty.