Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda resigned from Lok Sabha on June 12. On May 28, he wrote to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, informing his decision to quit the BJD. Panda spoke to The Indian Express explaining the issues that led to his resignation, and his future plans in politics.
How have you been targeted by the BJD?
Following results of the 2017 (local body) polls, I wrote a newspaper column analysing the party’s strengths and weaknesses. This was only after the party president called for a public introspection… In May (2017), I was physically attacked in Mahanga by BJD supporters…The police stood like a rock as stones and eggs were thrown at me. My shoulder was injured…I was suspended from the party in January by a kangaroo court headed by a tainted member. I was not given a list containing the allegations… Disrespecting my father (upon his demise), a close colleague of Biju Patnaik, was the final straw. It was particularly heinous as many BJD colleagues conveyed to me that they were restrained from attending (the last rites).
According to a BJD press release, the party suspended you for your desire to lobby for the position of Chairperson, Standing Committee for Finance. Do you accept these charges?
I emphatically deny them…I had earlier turned down membership in the commerce committee because of my family’s business interests dealing with the ministry.
Did you, as alleged by the BJD, directly or indirectly campaign against the party in the 2017 polls?
The campaign committee for Kendrapara did not inform me about the schedule. It is difficult to campaign when the committee shuns me.
Did the Kendrapara sub-divisional judicial magistrate order criminal proceedings against you for partial disclosure of financial information in your 2014 election affidavit?
My affidavit has been vetted by senior lawyers. There is nothing wrong… In this case, the BJD made a false claim in the SDJM court that they were trying to file an FIR, but police were not accepting it because I am influential. This is a civil, not criminal matter. The SDJM directed the police to register the case and probe it. The Odisha High Court stayed the matter.
You sent your resignation to the Lok Sabha Speaker, who you claim is abroad. Can the latter’s office accept it in her absence?
Since the time of Somnath Chatterjee… members resigning must meet the Speaker in person… When she (the Speaker) returns, I shall… convey my decision.
Can you share details of the “corruption” and “indiscipline” that you say has infected the BJD and government?
During his first three terms, Naveen babu dropped people with a shadow of corruption, including IAS officers and cabinet ministers… Since 2014, no one has been dropped for corruption… The BJD is not taking action against members arrested in chit fund scams. As per NCRB data, over the last four years, crimes against children… in the state have increased by 50%. This is a decline in governance. There is a new coterie surrounding the CM, misusing his powers.
Could you share names of persons in this new coterie?
I don’t want to get personal. It’s not about personalities.
You have attributed conspiracy against yourself and misgovernance in Odisha to “a non-Odiya officer in the third floor of the Secretariat”. What powers does this officer enjoy?
No serving officer should be involved in politics… There is clear breach of constitutional provisions. He is collecting funds for the party and distributing tickets. This… calls for an investigation by the CVC or EC.
Have you been approached by the BJP or Congress, or will you launch your own party?
I am consulting people and evaluating the situation. I am considering all options.
Will you contest from Kendrapara in the future?
I spent a lot of time in Kendrapara. I am attached to my constituency, but I am interested in the development of the entire state. I will be making assessments of the political roadmap ahead.