Bhubaneswar: Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra has dismissed reports of any split within the party, saying that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik continues to be the leader of the party
The clarification came amid reports that a powerful section within the ruling BJD had fallen out with the Chief Minister. A late-night meeting of rebels led by Mr Mohapatra, a Rajya Sabha MP and Mr Patnaik's political advisor for over a decade, led to speculation that the party may be heading for a split.
"There is absolutely no threat to Naveen Patnaik from me. He is completely safe as chief minister as he is the leader of the BJD," he said. "Had I wanted to become Chief Minister I could have tried long ago instead of waiting for so many years...I could have tried in 2009 also," the former bureaucrat-turned-MP said.
Sources had earlier told NDTV that a powerful section within the party had reportedly garnered the support of about 60 of the 104 BJD MLAs. The dissidents, sources added, also mustered the support of 17 Congress legislators and three Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLAs - enough to oust the Chief Minister, and form a government in the 147-member Odisha Assembly. The closed-door meetings on Tuesday night at Mr Mohapatra's residence and later, at a star hotel, were meant to chalk out the final plans for the anti-Patnaik offensive, sources revealed.
Rubbishing the reports, Mr Mohapatra said that the "33 MLAs who met me said the party organisation is neglected and bad elements not taken to task."
Prior to Mr Mohapatra's clarification, BJD MP Jay Panda also denied reports of any dissidence within the party. "There is only one Chief Minister of Odisha. He has completed 12 years. Everyone in Odisha considers Mr Patnaik as the BJD head and the Chief Minister."
Mr Patnaik returns from London on June 1. Speaking to reporters in London, he acknowledged that he had been apprised of the rebellion against him. "I understand that in my absence, an MP of my party is stirring trouble against my state government and also trying to divide the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). This is deplorable," he said. "I am in London for official government work. I will be returning to Bhubaneswar shortly," he added.
Referring to the chief minister's reported remark, he said that the comment was a result of "misleading" information given to the former by some party leaders, who also held a meeting at his residence, Naveen Niwas, as a "panic reaction" late last night. Over 20 MLAs, including ministers, had met at Mr Patnaik's residence to express solidarity with the chief minister. Five of the MLAs, who were part of the dissidents' meeting, had also joined the group of loyalists.
The Odisha Assembly has 147 seats, 104 of which are with the BJD. The Congress has 27 seats, the BJP six, the NCP four, the CPI one and independent candidates make up the remaining five.
Story first published:
May 30, 2012 08:59 IST