Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appears to be addressing concerns of some factions in his party, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), that have criticised him, as the party faces a litmus test in the upcoming by-election in Bijepur. On Monday, Patnaik met former Rajya Sabha MP Baisnab Charan Parida, who has been putting pressure on the state government to implement the Orissa Official Language Act (1954). In October last year, Parida had slammed Patnaik for not learning Odia even years after he became the chief minister.
“I requested the CM to implement the Act with immediate effect. This will involve steps such as computerisation of Odia language, rewriting law texts and administrative files in Odia, and appointing language teachers in government schools,” Parida told The Indian Express.
Referring to news report of the meeting, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda on Tuesday tweeted, “I’m happy to learn that my leader and party President has summoned and heard some of our party colleagues who had expressed the same concerns that i had, in the interest of the party and our state.”
Last week, Panda had spoken out strongly against a bureaucrat in the Chief Minister’s Office, when he faced disruption at a programme to inaugurate a water project in Cuttack district. “When an officer forgets his own service rules, crosses the Lakshman Rekha, joins politics, interferes in politics, and shelters anti-social elements, that officer should not be respected,” he had said while inaugurating the project on Thursday.
The same day, following criticism from party spokespersons, he had tweeted: “Sad that some ppl are trying to portray as if I’m straying from party discipline. Was it I who disturbed law & order in Mahanga?! Was i not just doing my job?? Is what i said not the truth, which every child knows? Let us not fool ourselves: Yeh public hai, yeh sab jaanta hai.”
Some BJD leaders alleged that the CM has outsourced everyday running of the party to his private secretary, V K Pandian. Some of them forecast that the party will pay an electoral price for allowing a bureaucrat to manage the organisation. “Pandian was taking decisions on party observers for the panchayats elections (last year). No MP (or) MLA is given responsibilities unless he bows his head in front of Pandian,” former BJD MLA Rama Ranjan Baliarsingh said.
Baliarsingh had quit the party earlier this month, protesting the bureaucrat’s alleged political role. Without naming his critics, Patnaik said on Thursday, “When they have no other issues, they attack my office. This is nothing new.”
BJD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Keshari Deb, meanwhile, played down the war of words. “There is no factional problem. Blaming the bureaucracy for party issues is like throwing a stone in the dark. Only the party president (Naveen Patnaik) takes decisions regarding the party,” he said. On Baliarsingh’s allegation that the CM’s private secretary is taking decisions for the BJD, Deb said “That (allegation) is malicious and wild.”