BJP MLA Dilip Ray and senior leader Bijoy Mohapatra resigned from the party’s Odisha unit on Friday. In a joint resignation letter to party president Amit Shah, they said the state unit of the BJP was ignoring its “sorry state of affairs” and treating them “as furniture”.
The incumbent MLA from Rourkela, Ray also met Odisha Assembly Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat and submitted his resignation. “We can’t be treated as furniture in the party while the rootless talk big and project a larger than life image,” they said in the letter.
A state BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, told The Indian Express that the word “rootless seems to be directed at that (Union Minister Dharmendra) Pradhan, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh”. Pradhan is likely to be named BJP’s chief ministerial candidate from the state in the upcoming Assembly polls in 2019.
Beyond resignations, a power tussle in Odisha BJP
Dilip Ray’s statements hint at brewing factionalism between two Union ministers from Odisha — Dharmendra Pradhan and Jual Oram — despite the latter’s statement earlier this week that Pradhan is BJP’s CM candidate. Ray’s letter, which party members think targets Pradhan, also openly praises Oram, who he says “played a significant role” in executing his pet projects such as declaration of Rourkela as Smart City, establishment of Regional Passport Office, commercially viable airport. On Ray’s earlier hints about his dissatisfaction over projects being held up in Rourkela, Oram on Tuesday conceded, “The pace of the work can be faster.”
Referring to Odisha’s Mahanadi water dispute with neighbouring Chhattisgarh, unfulfilled promises of a second bridge over Brahmani river, a super-specialty hospital at Rourkela and jobs for Odia youth, the two leaders said: “We regret to state that despite repeated efforts in appraising you (Shah) on the sorry state of affairs in the party here (Odisha), neither you nor any senior Central party leader bothered to consult, review or take corrective measures.”
“The well-meaning suggestions by us to you were construed as a threat by certain ego-centric, self-serving individuals who resorted to dirty tricks and a campaign was launched in our respective constituencies to try and deride us,” the letter said.
Ray, a former Union minister, and Mohapatra, a former state cabinet minister, are considered to be politically influential in their respective districts.
In a Facebook post, Ray also announced that he will not contest the upcoming assembly elections in 2019 from Rourkela. In the post, he stated, “being the public representative of the region… I consider it as my personal failure and inability to deliver on commitments… (the) two issues on which I fought the 2014 elections”.
The “two issues”, Ray said, were upgradation of the Indira Gandhi Hospital (IGH) to a Super Specialty Hospital and Medical College and a second Brahmani bridge. In the post, Ray also alleged that only some departments in IGH have been modernised so far, while only a foundation stone for the bridge was laid in 2017.
“Someone very powerful is deliberately creating impediments in the execution of these projects, just to ensure I don’t walk away with the credit. There is also a perception that till I remain the MLA, these demands would not be fulfilled,” Ray said.
The letter also calls the BJP’s loss by 40,000 votes in the Bijepur bypolls to the BJD earlier this year “a shocker”. It says the party “lost all the bypolls held at the panchayat level, more so, in pockets of many self-styled tall leaders”.
Responding to the resignations, BJP vice-president Sameer Mohanty said, “We expect everyone to help us remove the Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha, even a squirrel who helped build the Ram Setu. So, if a squirrel decides to go, then also we are sad.”