Former Congress MLA from Brahmagiri, Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra aka Lulu, was among the most vocal critics of the BJP. However, the saffron party seems to have co-opted him after his death. Posters of Lulu with slogans hailing his political immortality appeared alongside that of BJP heavyweights Dharmendra Pradhan in Bhubaneswar ahead of the former MLA’s daughter and brother joining the BJP. The irony was hard to miss with Congress leaders describing it as a sign of the BJP’s desperation to establish itself as a political force in Odisha. “This shows the kind of credibility crisis its is facing in Odisha,” remarked a Congress veteran.
The fast undertaken by Utkal University vice-chancellor Soumendra Mohan Patnaik recently has drawn mixed response. A section of academics feels that the VC, apparently fed up with student unrest on campus, took an exemplary step by resorting to this kind of “Gandhigiri” which would help improve the academic atmosphere, while others have raised questions of propriety. “The VC was not fasting in private. What he was doing appeared to be a kind of protest staged in full public view with many teachers and students joining him. If he resorts to such protests, how can he stop students from exercising their democratic right?” asked a critic.
Former BJD Rajya Sabha member Baishnab Parida’s Odia jab at chief minister Naveen Patnaik might have embarrassed the latter but has also turned the spotlight on the faltering political career of the erstwhile communist. For Parida, who had a stint with the Samajwadi Party, Rajya Sabha membership was the highpoint of his otherwise unremarkable career. Failing to get a re-nomination, he is now struggling to keep himself afloat through Bhasa Surakhya Sammilani, an outfit that claims to promote Odia language. Out of sheer frustration at not being re-nominated, “Parida seems to be using his outfit to target the chief minister,” said a BJD leader.
Young minister Sushant Singh is the man in focus as the BJD bids to wrest the Bijepur Assembly seat from the Congress in the upcoming bypoll. That the chief minister was putting his trust in this livewire from Bhatli became evident when he was deployed to win over the family members of Subal Sahu, the Congress MLA whose death necessitated the bypoll. Singh ensured that Sahu’s widow Rita and son Sumit joined the BJD. Rita was declared the party candidate. However, Singh’s closeness to the chief minister has not gone down well with two party stalwarts — handloom and textile minister Snehangini Chhuria and Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya who had lost to Sahu in the last election. Singh better watch his back.
Agriculture minister Damodar Rout may have the reputation of being a motormouth that makes him prone to controversies, but there is no denying his political experience that makes chief minister Naveen Patnaik rely on him heavily. It was Rout’s experience and excellent debating skills that made the chief minister deploy him the other day to take on the Centre on a raft of issues. Armed with latest data and irrefutable arguments, Rout demolished the NDA government’s claim that BJP-ruled states had a better track of development than others. Addressing journalists in Bhubaneswar, the minister, known for his oratorical skills, debunked several myths created by the NDA. To the credit of Rout, the state BJP spokesperson failed to counter his arguments with any degree of conviction.