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‘No Biju (Patnaik) loyalist will forgive Pyari’

Hot seat

Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak,
BJD MLA

You were once considered a force to reckon with in Odisha politics. Now, there is an overwhelming feeling that you are doomed because of your alleged involvement in the May 29 coup attempt against chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who axed you from the ministry following the incident. Aren’t you worried about your future?

I don’t think I was a force earlier or that I am doomed now. Being out of the ministry does not mean your career is over. Naveen babu has entrusted me with the responsibility of looking after the affairs of Mahakalapada constituency. I am doing my job sincerely.

But politics is all about remaining in power. If you are denied a party ticket in the next elections, will you consider joining Odisha Jan Morcha (OJM) floated by your former mentor and suspended BJD leader, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra?

Pyari babu was never my mentor and post has never been an issue for me. OJM is not even in the arena of Odisha politics. Many parties and forums have been floated earlier but each of them has sunk without a trace. OJM will meet a similar fate. I am loyal to Naveen babu and am willing to serve the party like any other worker under his leadership. So, I will accept whatever he decides rather than jumping over to another party.

But people perceive that Pyari brought you into politics, and it was because of him that you rose to great heights in this field. Don’t you agree?

This is absolutely wrong. Naveen babu brought me into politics. He knew me as a journalist. So, when he offered me a party ticket, I couldn’t refuse.

It is believed that he was instrumental in giving you a ticket from Patkura constituency to settle scores with Bijoy Mohapatra (now in BJP), who was denied a party ticket at the last moment. Will you still deny Pyari’s contribution to your success?

It was because of Naveen babu’s blessings that I got a ticket. At that time, I was not even aware that a Pyari babu existed in the BJD. Naveen babu introduced me to him long after I had filed my nomination.

Damodar Rout, senior BJD leader and minister, said the party still has people who are loyal to both Naveen and Pyari. There is a public perception you are someone with dual loyalties. How would you respond to this?

My loyalty should not be questioned. In my 12-year career, I have never taken any leader except Naveen babu to my constituency. Those who followed Biju babu will always stand by Naveen babu. He is my only leader.

Do you agree with the view that you were dropped from the ministry because Naveen suspected you of having played a role in the unsuccessful coup attempt?

It is a wrong perception. I had just arrived from Hyderabad on May 28 after a surgery. I had even informed Naveen babu about it before he left for his London tour.

But the so-called Naveen loyalists alleged that, unlike them, you did not rush to Naveen Nivas to express solidarity with the CM after news of the coup spread like wildlife. What held you back?

I had just come back after a surgery! But before Naveen babu landed in Bhubaneswar, I had reached Naveen Nivas and expressed my solidarity with him. I come from a family where we don’t ditch our leader. My father was a two-time MLA and never left Biju babu when bad times befell him. Now, when Naveen babu is at the peak of his popularity, can any sensible man think of leaving him?

Why do you think you were dropped?

The chief minister takes these decisions taking into account the ground realities and need of time. Besides me, four other ministers were also dropped. You can’t say all of them were dropped because of that May 29 incident. There are quite a few capable men who are serving the party without being in the ministry.

Many believe Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda played a key role in your ouster from the ministry. Do you feel the same?

Naveen babu does not take such decisions about his ministry on somebody’s advice. And Baijayant babu is not responsible for my exit. We share a good bond. Kendrapara was the karma bhoomi of Biju babu and now, Naveen babu.

Pyari recently said that Naveen does not understand the feelings of Odias as he was brought up in a Punjabi culture.

By criticising Naveen babu, he has criticised Biju babu. No Biju premi (Biju Patnaik loyalist) will ever forgive Pyari babu for this wild allegation. He has stooped very low. This is dirty politics.

It is alleged that you have minted money using your political clout. What would you say about this?

I am not a person who would earn money using politics as a tool. You can guess how much wealth I have by looking at my lifestyle.

Journalist-turned-politician

Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak (45) is the Biju Janata Dal’s MLA representing Mahakalapada constituency and former energy minister of Odisha

He is the son of noted freedom fighter and two-time MLA Rajkishore Nayak

He did part of his schooling in his village Sanadhanga, Patkura in Kendrapara district, and then moved to Bhubaneswar. He completed matriculation from Unit-IX Boys’ High School and did his intermediate studies in arts from Maharishi College of Natural Law. After graduating from Ekamra College with political science honours, he went on to pursue higher studies at Capital Law College

Nayak was roped into politics in 2000 and was first elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly in 2004 on a BJD ticket from Patkura. He was inducted into the ministry in 2009 with energy as his portfolio. His name had surfaced in the Rajya Sabha horse-trading case in 2010. The inquiry is on

Nayak was dropped from the ministry following reports of his involvement in the Pyari-led coup attempt against Naveen Patnaik on May 29 this year

Nayak is the director of Odisha Rural Integrated Development Agency, president of Orissa Mining Corporation Employees’ Union and heads Asureswar Gomangal Samiti, a state-level NGO for cattle

What would you have been had you not been a politician?

Earlier, I used to work in the corporate sector in the public relations department. Then I worked as a journalist.

I belong to a political family. My father was a politician and a very close associate of the late Biju Patnaik.

However, I never had any sort of political inclinations and wanted to remain a journalist because that had always been my ambition since childhood.

A few years later, Naveen (Patnaik) babu offered me a BJD ticket and asked me to contest Assembly elections from Patkura constituency. That is how I entered politics.