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Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday removed Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda from the post of BJD parliamentary party spokesperson. The move comes two months after Patnaik called for introspection in the BJD following its poor performance in panchayat polls, and noted that the party had been taken over by opportunists.
A terse one-liner signed by party vice-president and Food Supplies Minister Suryo Patro said that Panda had been removed the post with immediate effect. On Thursday, Patnaik had named Pratap Deb, a former minister from Kendrapara, as BJD candidate for the Rajya Sabha. Panda told The Indian Express that he respects the “party president’s decision”.
The axe on Panda is being seen as the first official action for the BJD MP’s reported proximity to the BJP and his utterances showing Patnaik in poor light. Three days ago, commenting on former BJD MP and tribal leader Jayram Pangi’s switch to the BJP, Panda tweeted: “One gone yesterday, another today. Yet when I cautioned last week, was contradicted. Now large sections unrepresented, resentment everywhere.”
One of his recent articles in an English daily, on how the BJP had entrenched itself as the central pillar of Indian politics, was viewed in BJD circles as pro-BJP. Party spokespersons had even warned Panda against venting his views on social media. Over the past two months, several BJD leaders including Panda and parliamentary party leader Bhartruhari Mahtab have been speaking out about the way the party was being run. After the recent ministry reshuffle, several MLAs also voiced resentment over Patnaik’s choice of ministers.
In March, after a Twitter spat with BJD MP Tathagata Satpathy over the BJP’s alleged attempt to divide the party, Panda wrote in an article in Odia daily Samaj that the BJD regime had started looking like the discredited Congress regime of the 1980s and late 1990s. He also alleged that founding members of the BJD had lost their access to the CM. Sources indicated that more action was likely against leaders who were speaking against the CM despite being warned.