The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naveen detractor shown the door

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 22: Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president and Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik last night expelled his well-known detractor and party leader Ramakrushna Patnaik, who is leading a nagging group of dissidents wanting to replace him.

The former finance minister was expelled from the BJD’s primary membership for “openly indulging in serious anti-party activities”.

This is Naveen Patnaik’s first crackdown on the dissident camp, after his detractors replaced Arjun Sethi with Prasanna Acharya in the BJD parliamentary party last Tuesday, dealing a crucial blow.

The former finance minister, who was projected as the next chief minister in the dissidents’ rally at Hinjli on Friday, had resigned from the Cabinet last month following a change in his portfolio. He donned the mantle of a full-time Naveen-baiter after the BJD chief suspended his wife MP Kumudini Patnaik, along with two other MPs.

Patnaik termed his expulsion as unconstitutional but welcomed the decision. “Every grassroots worker of the BJD has the right to air his or her grievances against party legislators and MPs. So if that does not constitute anti-party activity, how can the leadership term my grievances against Naveen Patnaik as an anti-party activity. What anti-party activity is he talking about'” the dissident leader asked.

He, however, made it clear that the dissidents would not split the BJD and the alliance in the state would remain intact. “I don’t believe in the game of numbers. It is the people who decide who should be their leader,” he said. Promising more action in the coming days, he added that during the Assembly session starting tomorrow, he would raise three important issues.

The sacked leader alleged that Patnaik was hell-bent on throwing everyone out of the party. “Though everyone has the right to dissent, Naveen would brook no dissidence. He has become a dictator like Hitler and Mussolini.”

Political observers here feel that dissidents are likely to lie low for some time before they strike back. The state BJP may not play ball with the rebels after deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani cautioned the state leaders not to do anything that would affect the stability of the chief minister or the BJD.

“It would send a wrong message to our allies if we do so,” Advani had said, calling the developments in the regional party as its internal matter.

The monsoon session of the Assembly, starting tomorrow, is likely to be dominated by the dissidents.

While issues like privatisation of Nalco, power-cuts and the drought will figure prominently, the spurt of rebellion in the BJD is also likely to find a reflection on the floor. The session is also likely to pass a unanimous resolution opposing the privatisation of Nalco.

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