Two months after he called out for introspection in Biju Janata Dal in the aftermath of party’s under performance in this year’s panchayat polls and how the party was taken over by opportunists, Chief Minister and party president Naveen Patnaik on Friday removed Lok Sabha MP from Kendrapara, Baijayant Jay Panda from the post of spokesperson of BJD Parliamentary Party.
A terse one-liner, signed by party vice-president and food supplies minister Suryo Patro BJD, said Patnaik has removed Panda from the post with immediate effect. On Thursday, the chief minister had tried to corner Panda by announcing Pratap Deb, former minister from Kendrapara as party candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat that goes to polls later this month.
Reacting to the decision, Panda told the Indian Express that he respects the “party president’s decision”.
The axe on the suave BJD MP is said to be the first official action for his reported proximity to BJP and his utterances showing Naveen in poor light on social media as well as in newspaper articles. Three days ago, commenting on the switching of sides by former BJD MP and tribal leader Jayram Pangi to BJP, Panda had tweeted: “One gone yesterday, another today. Yet when I cautioned last week, was contradicted. Now large sections unrepresented, resentment everywhr (sic). The same month in another English daily, his article on how BJP had entrenched itself as the central pillar of Indian politics was viewed in BJD circles as very pro-BJP.
Though party spokesmen had warned him against venting it out on social media, the MP did not seem to be affected.
In March this year, after a Twitter spat with fellow BJD MP Tathagat Satpathy about BJP’s attempt to divide the party, he followed it up with an article in Odia daily ‘Samaj’ alleging that the BJD regime had started looking like the discredited Congress regime of the 80s and late 90s. “If we honestly introspect, we must acknowledge that allegations about the political environment in 1997, including widespread corruption and sheltering of powerful people committing criminal acts, are again being alleged about Odisha of the past three years,” he wrote.
He further alleged that the founding members of BJD had lost their access to CM. “Many key positions are no longer held by people who struggled for the party, who might have given honest feedback, but rather by opportunists from various fields, including some who had worked against BJD,” he said.
Apart from Panda, BJD MP from Cuttack and BJD Parliamentary Party leader Bhartruhari Mahtab too has made life difficult for Naveen by writing newspaper articles on BJD’s desperation over BJP’s rise. From indirectly terming Naveen loyalist and party MLA Debashis Samantray as a “cockroach” and ‘monsoon insects who emit foul odour’, Mahtab dismissed assertions that Naveen’s image alone helped party win. “When the party is fielding us, we’re winning for the party, be it the MP candidate or MLA candidate,” Mahtab had said.
Party sources indicated more action was likely against leaders who have started speaking out against the chief minister despite warning not to go public.
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