By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, January 25, 2018: Wait is over. After months of suspense, Odisha chief minister and the Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday seems to have acted in the most predictable manner by suspending Kendrapara MP, Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda from primary membership of the party for anti-party activities.

Ever since he took over the reins of power in 2000, Naveen has crushed “dissent” inside the party. During these years, he has sacked at least 36 ministers and suspended a dozen party leaders for what he called ‘anti-party’ activities. In the past two decades, he has driven out almost all the founding members. He threw out Bijoy Mahopatra in 2000, a key member in the formation of BJD and 12 years later, he ousted his political adviser Pyarimohan Mohapatra who tried to engineer a coup.

Jay’s repeated clashes with Naveen have clearly proved costly for the industrialist turned politician. Though the four-time MP has tweeted his shock at the development, saying the “allegations” against him were “baseless”, action against Panda had begun early this year when he was removed as BJD’s parliamentary party spokesperson in 2017 following his article in ‘The Samaja’ which indirectly said that Naveen has failed to stem corruption within the BJD.

Besides, Panda attributed BJP’s electoral success in panchayat polls to the ‘dynamic leadership of the BJP’ in his article.

The BJD’s official spokesperson Pratap Jena then had hinted at possible disciplinary action against Panda. “Baijayant Panda has been writing many things calling it his personal opinion. He is supporting BJP and writing against the BJD. It amounts to indiscipline. His high ambition is not unknown to anybody. The party will consider taking action”, Jena had said.

The ruling party leaders had accused “an opportunist” Panda of striking a deal with the BJP following its success in panchayat polls as he sensed it could pose a serious electoral challenge to Naveen when the state goes to the polls in 2019.


Fully aware of Panda’s moves and his “closeness” with certain senior BJP central leaders, Naveen was waiting for the opportune moment to cut him to sizes. Last week, local party leaders from various parts of Panda’s constituency met Naveen at his residence and ‘asking for’ action against him for ignoring party workers, not taking them into confidence in his activities and spending his MPLAD fund without consulting them.

Naveen appointed two observers — minister Usha Devi and former minister and the head of the party’s women’s wing Pramilla Mallick — to ‘probe’ the charges against Panda and give a report confirming the allegations by the party leaders from Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency.

The party’s press release accused Panda of embarrassing and working against the party’s interests in every possible forum and even acting for the opposition (read BJP) after Naveen turned down his request to be the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance in the Lok Sabha after the 2014 general election.

Naveen declined the request since it would have meant a serious conflict of interest because Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys (IMFA), a company owned by Panda’s family, had been given a controversial loan waiver worth thousands of crores.

Panda perhaps crossed the limit when he launched frontal attack on V Karthikeyan Pandian, the private secretary to the chief minister virtually running both the party and the government. Panda had accused the all-powerful bureaucrat of instigating party workers and local leaders to oppose him wherever he went in his constituency.

In fact, Panda also knew what was coming post sacking of senior minister and party vice-president Damodar Rout recently, which was a clear message from Naveen to his party as well as his ministerial colleagues that he would not brook any indiscipline or show of defiance.

After 17 years as Odisha chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s political moves are now becoming fairly predictable. A man who was thrust into the hurly-burly of politics, Naveen has not only been outmaneuvering rivals within the party, but he has also been able to cut the opposition down to size with his simplicity, honesty and ability to connect with the people.

The moot question is if he could still remain invincible in the next general elections with such moves is anybody’s guess.

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