‘Super CM’ behind the BJP-BJD split

While L K Advani and other senior party leaders are still struggling to understand the BJD’s sudden volte face,state BJP members say it was Pyarimohan Mohapatra,the 69-year-old BJD Rajya Sabha MP,who,despite an ailing heart,worked hard to steer the BJD away from the BJP to new allies like Prakash Karat and Sharad Pawar.

Written by Debabrata Mohanty | Bhubaneshwar | Published:March 9, 2009 8:41 am

Soon after the BJD ended its 11-year-old alliance with the BJP in Orissa on Saturday evening,BJP workers at the party’s state headquarters knew who was behind the break-up. If they had a dart board at the party office,perhaps they would have loved to put the face of Pyarimohan Mohapatra,the 69-year-old BJD Rajya Sabha MP,on it.

While L K Advani and other senior party leaders are still struggling to understand the BJD’s sudden volte face,state BJP members say it was Mohapatra,who,despite an ailing heart,worked hard to steer the BJD away from the BJP to new allies like Prakash Karat and Sharad Pawar.

Known widely as Naveen’s mentor and adviser since 2000,the bespectacled Mohapatra,or Pyaribabu as he is known in BJD circles,commands respect and awe in his party and in the administration,second only to the CM himself. A career bureaucrat,the 1963-batch former IAS officer entered politics in 2000,when he joined the BJD. Soon he became a part of the BJD state executive committee and started playing the role of adviser to Naveen. Thereafter,there was no looking back for Mohapatra,who once served as principal secretary to former CM and Naveen’s father,Biju Patnaik,between 1990 and 1994. In 2004,he entered the Rajya Sabha.

He rose to prominence when he reportedly orchestrated the expulsion of BJD founder Bijoy Mohapatra from the party during the 2000 Assembly polls. It was a blow Bijoy Mohapatra,now the state NCP chief,is yet to recover from.

Though the former bureaucrat does not hold any high office apart from memberships in the BJD’s state executive and the Rajya Sabha,he has come to acquire a larger-than-life image. “Without Pyaribabu’s nod,nothing moves in the BJD and the government. He is the super CM,” says a BJD MLA. Recently,members of the All Orissa Primary Teachers Federation addressed him as “Lord” at a rally for better pay. “For us,Pyaribabu is the one who runs the government,” they said.

But Mohapatra laughs off the idea that he is the “super chief minister”. “Those who say that Naveen works under my direction don’t know Naveenbabu well enough. My image is just a creation of the media,” he told The Indian Express.

Party leaders say the credit for BJD’s rise should go to Mohapatra. Observers say Mohapatra does the spadework for Naveen as the latter is hamstrung by his lack of knowledge of Oriya and hardly knows the state’s geography and culture. “He is a good strategist,planner and executioner of ideas. While Naveen is the face of the party,Pyaribabu is the brain. They complement each other,” a BJD youth leader said.

For instance,it was Mohapatra’s idea that the BJD should go alone in the recent polls to the state civic bodies. The BJD swept the polls in both Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.

And then came the break-up. Mohapatra reportedly conducted a survey to gauge the BJP’s popularity and concluded that it no longer deserved to fight 63 Assembly seats. “The alliance broke up because of Mohapatra. The BJD will have to pay for it in the polls,” says Kharavela Swain,BJP MP from Balasore. For now,Mohapatra is not bothered about the accusations. He is busy stitching new alliances with the Left.

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