Bhubaneswar, May 5: Changing equations in the state BJP have come to the fore with party leadership revoking the suspension of senior leader and former vice-president Ashok Sahu along with 10 others.
Sahu, who was suspended in October 2014 for publicly airing his views on party's poor performance in the elections, shared strained relations with the then state unit president and Patnagarh MLA K.V. Singh Deo.
Sources said though Union minister Jual Oram, the political mentor of Sahu, who is a former IPS officer, had tried hard to get the suspension revoked in the past. However, he did not succeed because of resistance from Singh Deo and his supporters.
However, things have looked up for the likes of Sahu in the BJP with Nuapada MLA Basant Kumar Panda taking over from Singh Deo and constituting his own team.
Panda, said sources, was keen to ensure that factionalism in the state unit was contained and the party put up a united face in the panchayat elections, which would be a litmus test for the BJP. The party had failed to put up a creditable performance in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
While the party secured just 10 Assembly seats, it won the lone Lok Sabha seat of Sundargarh in a tough triangular contest. The central BJP leadership, however, treats Odisha as a priority state as far as 2019 elections are concerned and has asked the state unit bosses to ensure that infighting did not blight the party's prospects in the next elections.
Though party spokesperson Sajjan Sharma refused to attach any political meaning to the revocation of Sahu's suspension saying it followed a routine decision by the disciplinary committee, a senior leader on the conditions of anonymity said the development marked a distinct shift in party's priorities and change in the leadership's style of functioning.
"The new leadership wants to carry the entire party with it. It has adopted a more flexible approach to ensure unity," said the leader.
Sahu, a firebrand leader, had been placed under suspension soon after the Kandhamal Lok Sabha by-election results were announced, publicly airing his views about party's performance on social media. Among other things, he had sought to know why Modi magic, which earned BJP great political dividends in other parts of the country, had failed to work in Odisha.
However, a section of BJP leaders thought Sahu's views reflected his personal frustration because he had been denied the party ticket for the Kandhamal by-poll for which BJD defector Rudra Madhab Ray was the BJP candidate.