* By Pratik Prasenjit
The Biju Janata Dal Lok Sabha chief whip Tathagata Satpathy’s veiled attack on a party colleague, accusing him of working in cahoots with BJP to engineer a split within the party, has created flutters in the political circles. Although instances of dissidence and rift between senior leaders have dotted the journey of the party since its inception in 1997, but the raging Twitter war ahead of BJP’s National Executive in Bhubaneswar next month has caused massive embarrassment for the regional satrap. The BJP has already set its eyes on the next assembly polls in the state that will be held simultaneously with 2019 general elections and a rebellion at this juncture could only cut slack BJD’s hope of being elected for a fifth consecutive term. A defeat could also drive the last nail in the coffin of the party that is already battling a next generation leadership crisis.
When Patnaik forayed into politics after the sudden demise of his father Biju Patnaik in 1997, he was described by many as a ‘reluctant politician’, often derided for poor command over his mother tongue. Over the past 17 years, his government has also been hauled up several times over accusations of corruption and nepotism. But Patnaik’s track record of showing doors to tainted ministers and bureaucrats has insulated him with a squeaky clean image. Besides, his crafty way of stone-walling himself from the media too has gone in his favour to whisk away any allegation that would splutter on him.
When the communal riots of Kandhamal broke out in 2008, Patnaik immediately snapped ties with the BJP, calling it ‘communal’. The break-up which came just a year before the assembly elections, dealt a strong blow to the saffron party, pushing it to face a humiliating defeat in 2009. Patnaik, subsequently emerged as an astute politician who not only knew how, but when to hurt his political adversaries the most.
When a coup orchestrated by one of his close confidantes, stared at Patnaik in 2012, the erstwhile soft-spoken chief minister minced no words to dub him a ‘Beimaan’(traitor) in full glare of TV cameras and sacked him in the most unceremonious way. Five years later as the party stands at the crossroads, Patnaik’s silence will only embolden the rebels, triggering more dissidence and disarray within. With many senior leaders calling for introspection and political pundits hinting at an AIADMK like split, all eyes now are on Patnaik. Will he boot the rebel out? Will the ‘Beimaan’ epithet be played all over again? The elephant in the room is staring in the face and looking away could script Patnaik’s political epitaph.
* Pratik Prasenjit is a journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected], @pratikprasenjit
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