There are rumblings of a revolt in the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) despite the party’s landslide victory in the Assembly elections and a good show in the Lok Sabha polls.
Though not on the same scale as the one by expelled leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, who in May 2012 unsuccessfully tried to unseat Naveen Patnaik, top BJD leaders like cooperation minister Damodar Rout, former minister Prafulla Ghadei and Kalindi Behera are raising voice of dissent against Kalpataru Das, leader of parliamentary party in Rajya Sabha. Das is considered close to the Orissa Chief Minister.
After the CAG, in his audit report on allotment of houses and plots under Bhubaneswar Development Authority’s discretionary quota, accused Das and his family of cornering properties, his MLA son was forced to return two such houses after an uproar in the party and outside. Subsequent media reports revealed that Das had, over the last eight to nine years, managed to grab around 40 plots and houses in Orissa and Delhi.
Naveen tried to wriggle free of the embarrassment by forming a taskforce headed by additional chief secretary Taradatt, but the dissidents led by Rout were unsatisfied and criticised the composition of the taskforce by opposing the inclusion of Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary DK Singh, who was earlier vice-chairman of BDA, alleging there would be conflict of interest.
Rout demanded that the state government should come up with a clarification that all the members of the taskforce are honest and the investigation in the allotment of land and plot by the BDA, the Orissa State Housing Board and the General Administration Department under discretionary quota has been done in an unbiased manner.
“How can the members of the taskforce, who have illegally availed houses or land under the quota, probe the alleged irregularities by other persons involved in the case,” he asked. Naveen did not react to the barbs, but he has refused to budge to the demands of change in composition of the taskforce.
Having managed to corner Das over land grab, the group of dissident leaders including a BJD MP recently met trying to create a pressure group within the party.
But Naveen does not seem to have taken the developments kindly and has instructed some of his ministers, including agriculture minister Pradip Maharathi, and former minister Bishnu Das to take on the dissidents. “I will soon unmask those who are hatching conspiracy against Naveen Patnaik. Those who are opposing him would become big zeroes,” Maharathy recently said. Das taunted Rout saying he should resign from ministry for criticising the CM’s decision.