All Is Not Well In BJD!
Finally, Naveen Patnaik, the Odisha Chief Minister, has declared that there is no second power centre in his party and government. Reacting to the allegation made by some of his own party members and dissident leaders, Naveen said, “I take all decisions on my own; there are no alternative power centers in the party.”
On the other hand, Damodar Rout, the senior leader of the party, who has been venting his venom against the party leadership, welcomed CM’s announcement, but said, “If there is no second power centre, then Naveen would be responsible for all the past decisions of the party and government.”
Naveen, who has just completed two years of his third term, is probably facing the worst period in both of his political career and Chief Ministership: CBI is inquiring the Rs 500-crore MNREGS scam in four KBK districts. Opposition parties are directly targeting him on multi-crore mining, coal and dal scams. People are resisting strongly against proposed steel plants of POSCO, Mittal, Jindal and TATAs. Vedanta’s both aluminum plant and refinery in Lanjigarh and University project in Puri have been opposed vehemently by local people. Out of 100 such projects and MoUs, he has signed so far for steel, aluminum and energy only 20 of them have taken off.
If the present turn of events in ruling BJD in Odisha has any indication then there are bound to be ripples in the party in near future. The party had never witnessed such developments during its twelve-year tenure.
A senior general secretary of the party Narendra Swain, who has been looking after the day-to-day affairs of the party, having ignored Rajya Sabha seat, alleged that Baistanab Parida was sent to Rajya Sabha at the intervention of Congress and Pranab Mukharjee. He alleged that because of the proximity of Pranab Mukharjee with party’s president Naveen Patnaik, Parida was elected to Rajya Sabha. Parida who till two years back was Samajwadi Party’s state president had joined BJD just before 2009 elections and became MP in a span of one year.
Similarly, social worker wife of party’s Dasapalla MLA has filed an FIR and complained to State Mahila Commission accusing local, Kandhamal, BJD MP Rudramadhab Ray of defamation and caste discrimination.
Party’s Rayagada district unit has levelled a serious allegation of murder conspiracy against its local tribal MP, Jayaram Pangi. Just two months back two brothers of district president Bhaskar Rao were murdered in Majhighariani Temple, the presiding deity of the district. A protest bandh was organised in the district on May 3.
In another incident, Minister of Women and Child Development Anjali Behera’s role in alleged murder of block chairman of Hindola in Dhenkanal district came in for sharp reaction from various quarters. The killed chairman also happens to be a close supporter of the minister. Opposition BJP has demanded resignation of the minister. She had demanded an independent inquiry to prove her innocence.
Not only these, Damodar Rout, the secretary general and chief spokesman of the party, who was just dropped from the Cabinet along with other two—Bijaya Ranjan Singh Bariha and Praveen Bhanjadeo—in a recent reshuffle of the Ministry, has dropped a bombshell pointing fingers towards party’s all-powerful Rajya Sabha MP Pyarimohan Mahapatra, who is a former bureaucrat and was the secretary to CM during Biju Patnaik government. Rout alleged that Naveen was working at the behest of Pyari, who was remote-controlling the party and the state administration.
Rout was the state’s Agriculture and Cooperation Minister and representing from Paradeep, where country’s largest foreign direct investment POSCO steel plant is coming up. Rout’s clout in part was eroded following his rivalry with district unit president Bishnu Das, a former education minister and SC MLA. He was further isolated in the part for his caste remark against local CPI MP and party’s district president. His Harijan remark in a public meeting landed him in a legal controversy to which he sought anticipatory bail and the case is now with National Commission of Scheduled Caste. The role of Rout in proposed POSCO project is very crucial. That’s why, though he has been out from Cabinet he has not been suspended or expelled from the party despite his regular spat over party functioning.
Interestingly, Rout’s voice has been echoed by another ministerial aspirant Debashis Nayak. He has also raised the leadership question in the party pointing his finger towards Pyari Mahapatra. Debashis, who is also a former minister, had been the PS and OSD of Naveen Patanik for quite some time. His relationship with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is quite old as his father was also close to Naveen’s father Biju Patnaik.
However, Debashis has been placed under suspension just two days back. Debashis has gone further in saying that he has the support of some disgruntled MLAs and leaders in the party.
Denying the growing factionalism in the party, a senior party functionary says, “CM Naveen Patnaik who took oath as CM for third term on May 29, 2009, after a landslide victory securing 103 seats out of 147 and 5 others from alliance partners NCP and CPI, is the longest serving CM of any regional outfit. Though there are some individual opinions and reactions, everybody is part of party discipline and has strong faith in the leadership.”
Despite all these hiccups in the party a visibly upset Naveen who has all along been controlling the party with iron fist by showing the gate to all of his probable contenders in party now seems to be more perturbed.
His anti-centre bashing is not gaining ground though he has always been complaining against the Union government’s negligence to the state and reiterating the demand of Special Category State status.
Maoists who were limited to four districts when Naveen came to power in the year 2001 now have presence in at least 20 out of 30 districts in the state. Maoist violence is reported almost daily in the state. He has been accused of running the state with the help of bureaucrats, who in turn, are not carrying out orders of ministers rather ignoring them.
With all these bickering in the party and administrative defaults Naveen has been cornered by both the opposition parties, i.e. the Congress and the BJP.
When asked, a senior BJD leader claimed, “Odisha is in forefront in many areas, states GDP growth is comparable to any developed state in the country, we have achieved fiscal turnaround and have become revenue surplus state. No overdraft like that in earlier government’s regime. State’s growth rate is more than national growth rate. Not only these, We have been able to distribute land pattas to 2,73,283 tribals and have settled 803 community rights, for which we are the number one state in the country; 29 steel plants have been operational. Land acquisition process is going on in POSCO area after MOEF’s forest clearance last month.”
He further added, “A lot of development works have been introduced. New schemes like Biju Gramjyoti Yojana, Gopabandhu Surakhya Yojana, Mo Kudia, Madhubabu Pension Yojana and Biju KBK Yojana are working well. Besides these, infrastructure developments, rural road connectivity, streamlining MDM schemes and taking prompt action against corrupt babus and employees are the major achievements of Naveen Patnaik government.”
By Sudarshan Chhotoray from Bhubaneswar