After receiving yoga practitioner Baba Ramdev at his official residence Naveen Nivas recently, chief minister Naveen Patnaik took him around his garden explaining in detail how he takes personal care to ensure that trees are watered and tended regularly. Baba, who dabbles in herbology, was impressed and then enquired about how Naveen’s government was doing in the state.
When the chief minister informed that he has been in the saddle for 12 years now, the saffron-robed bachelor blessed him saying he should rule for a dozen years more. With a toothy grin, Naveen, pleased as he was with Baba Ramdev’s blessings, said: “Baba, apke munh mein ghee shakkar (May your words come true).”
Pipili MLA Pradeep Maharathy has been making frequent rounds of the chief minister’s residence apparently in the hope of staging a comeback into the ministry which is likely to be expanded after the rath yatra.
The hopes of Maharathy, who was dropped as agriculture minister a few months ago following allegations of sheltering the Pipili gangrape case accused at his farmhouse, have soared with medical reports of the victim, who died recently, failing to establish rape.
However, the bearded leader, who had landed a ministerial berth last time with the blessings of the failed coup leader, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, knows that he cannot return to the ministry unless he happens to be in the good books of the chief minister. One wonders whether his frequent visits to Naveen Nivas would actually win him the favour of Naveen.
These days, BJD’s suspended Jatni MLA Bibhuti Bhushan Balabantray misses no opportunity of proclaiming his loyalty to chief minister Naveen Patnaik. The same is also true of the other suspended party MLA, Pravat Biswal, who, along with Balabantray, was present at the residence of Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra on May 29 when the alleged coup plan against the chief minister was hatched.
However, now that they have realised that Mohapatra’s ship is sinking, they are singing a different tune and making repeated assertions of loyalty to the chief minister. Senior BJD leaders say that the two MLAs are being racked by a sense of guilt and the fear of being denied tickets in the next elections is gnawing at their hearts. “One should not be taken in by their crocodile tears. They know their fate is sealed,” said a senior leader.
A full-scale war has broken between former state Congress working president Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra and the party’s affairs in charge of Odisha Jagdish Tytler. While Mohapatra camp remains unrepentant about its campaign to unseat Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik, a Tytler confidant, the former Union minister misses no opportunity of criticising Mohapatra, who is better known among friends as Lulu.
During one of his recent visits to the state, Tytler hit out at Mohapatra saying that the activities of his camp were only helping BJD supremo and chief minister Naveen Patnaik. While Tytler, who rose in Congress politics during the days of Sanjay Gandhi, made it clear that he would not give in to the blackmail of Mohapatra and his henchmen, the latter, too, appear to have dug in their heels ready for a long battle.
There are rumblings in the state Bhartiya Janata Party with a big question mark rising over the leadership of its president Jual Oram. The embarrassment of Oram was acute when five of the six party MLAs failed to turn up at a recent officer-bearers’ meeting where former Union minister Santosh Gangwar was also present. This was the second instance in the last few months of a large-scale absence of BJP MLAs at an important party meeting. Though Oram has sought to play down the issue saying the legislators had stayed away with his permission, the cracks in the party are now clearly showing.
If the party leadership fails to take remedial steps, BJP may suffer irreparable damage in the state.