|Pyari Mohan Mohapatra
Bhubaneswar, April 1: From being the hands-on boss of the BJD to the chief of what is widely seen as a “signboard” party, Odisha Jan Morcha leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra has traversed the highs and lows of politics rather fast.
Once hailed as chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s “Chanakya”, whose good offices the state’s high and mighty sought, the former bureaucrat today seems to be ploughing a lonely furrow with his dream of a grand political alliance against his former boss lying in tatters.
For Mohapatra, whose rise and fall have been equally meteoric, politics has truly been a game of snakes and ladders!
For nearly a decade that he had run the BJD on behalf of Naveen, who fondly called him “uncle”, he was one of the most feared bosses, who brooked no resistance to his authority. Enjoying an almost carte blanche from the chief minister, this master strategist soon began to build up his own coterie. He was a parallel power centre, which drew BJD leaders, especially its younger MLAs, like a magnet.
The power, many believe, turned his head. Though there are many versions of his alleged revolt against Naveen in May 2012 while the latter had been on his maiden foreign trip as the chief minister, there are no two opinions about his quick fall from grace in the wake of the misadventure.
He was first suspended from the party along with some of his perceived supporters and then shown the door. Mohapatra, however, was unfazed and determined to strike back. He floated his own political party, Odisha Jan Morcha, a motley group consisting of mostly the disgruntled elements of the BJD, who had walked out of the party with him.
His fulmination against Naveen continued, and at one stage, he threatened to unleash a “brahmastra” (a deadly weapon) against the chief minister, hinting that he was privy to some mining scam related secrets, which could embarrass the state government. He is yet to make good of his threat, prompting allegations that it was nothing but an empty boast.
The fear that Mohapatra might poach leaders from the BJD has also proved to be unfounded so far. On the contrary, a senior OJM leader, Sarat Mishra, recently broke ranks with him and joined the ruling party. However, the biggest blow to the bureaucrat-turned-politician has been his failure to woo the BJP to form a grand alliance of non-BJD and non-Congress parties in the state.
For all his talk about having persuaded the saffron leadership at the Centre to join hands with his party, the state BJP leaders, who still hold him responsible for the collapse of the party’s 11-year-old alliance with the BJD, shot down the proposal. Worse, while Mohapatra mulls his fate in complete isolation, two other smaller parties, the Ama Odisha and the Utkal Bharat, which could have been his allies, have gone ahead and forged their own alliance to contest the elections on a common symbol.
The script seems to have gone horribly wrong for Mohapatra. His opponents say that having sown the wind he is now reaping the whirlwind. “No one trusts him anymore. Ever since that alleged coup against the chief minister, his image is that of a traitor. He will be a liability for any party,” said BJP veteran Ashok Sahu.
Senior BJD leader, health minister Damodar Rout, who loves to hate Mohapatra, said the former bureaucrat was paying for the sins he committed when he was calling the shots in the ruling party. “He humiliated party leaders. He enjoyed when people touched his feet. Now, he is left with just a few supporters in the OJM,” said Rout.
With more enemies than friends in politics, a comeback seems well nigh impossible for Mohapatra. No wonder even his friends now wonder if this is going to be the end of the road for him.