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Pyari back home, hints at abstention

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 6: Ahead of the crucial vote in the Rajya Sabha on the Opposition-sponsored motion against FDI in multi-brand retail, expelled BJD leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra today lashed out at chief minister Naveen Patnaik for keeping him on tenterhooks.

Mohapatra, who was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in June, 2010, on a BJD ticket but was thrown out of the party last month, said the chief minister had turned into a Trishanku (a mythological character who hung between earth and heaven) by neither communicating his expulsion order to the secretariat of the Upper House, nor keeping him in the loop with regard to voting on the motion.

“The hypocrite chief minister has made me a Trishanku. Either he should inform the Rajya Sabha of my expulsion or I should be treated as a party member, which I still consider myself to be. But the three-line whip issued to other party members has not reached me. Then what is the purpose of my being in Delhi at this time?” fumed Naveen’s former Man Friday, who arrived here this evening. The leader indicated that he might abstain from voting on the motion which is expected to take place tomorrow.

Mohapatra, who is reported to be exploring legal options with regard to his expulsion from the BJD in the light of subsequent developments, has written to the chief minister asking him to come clean on the issue.

“He should make my position clear,” said the Rajya Sabha member who finds himself in a piquant situation as he has neither been issued a whip for voting by the party nor does he enjoy the status of an unattached member who can vote according to his conscience.

However, sources said that the Congress-led UPA, which is scouting around for support ahead of voting in the Upper House, might still approach Mohapatra.

The Congress-led coalition may also try to dangle a carrot before Biju Janata Dal-supported Independent member A.V. Swamy.

There are 10 Rajya Sabha members from Odisha of whom seven belong to the ruling BJD while one each comes from the Congress and the BJP.

However, it is Mohapatra who is in focus for his hostility towards Naveen. The enmity heightened after Mohapatra floated Odisha Jan Morcha (OJM), which is likely to be converted into a full-fledged political party ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections.

Mohapatra mocked the chief minister for making a pretence of opposing FDI in retail saying that the BJD government was responsible for inviting Reliance Fresh to the state.

“I had opposed the move but they did not listen to me. How can these people be expected to be serious about opposing the entry of big players into the retail sector,” he said.