With God’s grace
As chief secretary Bijay Patnaik visited the Jagannath temple in Puri on Saturday, the corridors of the state secretariat were abuzz with whispers that he had gone to thank the deities for getting BJD Rajya Sabha member and former IAS Pyari Mohan Mohapatra out of his way. Suspended from the BJD the day before, the officious and assertive Mohapatra had been a constant thorn in Patnaik’s side.
In fact, there are those who say that Mohapatra did not want Patnaik to become the chief secretary in the first place and tried his best to dissuade the chief minister from elevating the latter to the apex of the state bureaucracy. When Patnaik still managed to get there, his relations with the bureaucrat-turned-politician were soured forever.
On safe shores
Spared from the axe for the time being, the minister of state for housing and urban development, Sarada Prasad Nayak, must be thanking his stars.
The MLA from Rourkela was not only present at the house of Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the failed coup leader, the day rebels hatched the conspiracy to unseat the chief minister, he was also alleged to have organised the logistical support to ensure the success of the plan.
But once the plan went haywire, he began singing a different tune and even went to Naveen Nivas the next day to greet the chief minister, which could have been the best way of expressing loyalty.
He stood his ground despite being heckled and pushed at the chief minister’s residence. Perhaps that worked in his favour and he managed to save his job.
For CM’s support
Biju Janata Dal leaders vied with each other to get closer to the chief minister the day he returned to Bhubaneswar cutting short his London trip. Former agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy drove his flower-bedecked open jeep as close as possible to the airport’s exit gate in the hope of offering the chief minister a lift. For the Pipili strongman that would have been the ultimate coup but Naveen refused to oblige him and instead got into his own car and drove up to his residence.
It’s another matter that it took him nearly an hour to reach Naveen Nivas, which is just half a kilometre from the airport, thanks to the massive reception which saw his vehicle being stopped countless times by the cheering party workers.
The suspension of Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra from the Biju Janata Dal was sweet revenge for his detractors who made no bones about their dislike for the man who once called the shots in the party.
The strongest reaction came from former minister and Athgarh MLA Ranendra Pratap Swain who said that given the anger of party workers the IAS-turned-politician would find it hard to move out of his house. Swain could have been excused for getting carried away by the moment for he, claim his supporters, has suffered the most at the hands of Mohapatra.
They blame the advisor-turned-adversary of the chief minister for Swain being denied the opportunity to contest the 2009 Assembly elections. Swain finally made it to the Assembly after winning a by-election from the constituency last year.
Strangely, state Congress president Niranjan Patnaik does not look happy about the turmoil in the Biju Janata Dal in the wake of the failed coup attempt against the chief minister. Sources said that Patnaik had been as rattled by the failure of the coup much like the ruling party leaders who masterminded it. This is because of the growing public perception that Congress had become part of the conspiracy by promising support to the coup leaders. This could trigger a popular backlash against the party, which would be facing an election in the next two years. “The party, like the failed coup leaders, is being seen as a villain. Our public image has been tarnished,” said a senior Congressman.
Happy with split
The fracas in the BJD is music to the ears of senior state BJP leaders including its president Jual Oram whose dislike for chief minister Naveen Patnaik is well known.
Oram, who had a public spat with Naveen over the Posco issue when his party was ruling the state in tandem with BJD, had also launched a virulent diatribe against Naveen when the latter dumped the BJP unceremoniously on the eve of 2009 Assembly elections. For Oram and Co, who are yet to get over BJP’s humiliation in those elections, the upheaval in the BJD following a coup attempt against the chief minister is poetic justice. “They are paying for their sins. Wait, there is more to come,” said a saffron leader with barely concealed glee.