The year 2018 witnessed several ups and downs in Odisha politics. From ruling BJD’s thumping victory in Bijepur by-poll, suspension of heavyweights from the party to two senior leaders quitting BJP, the State witnessed several major political turning points this year.
Here are the 10 important political happenings in Odisha.
1-Suspension of Baijayant Panda
The year began with the much-talked-about political happening in Odisha with the suspension of former MP Baijayant Panda from Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in January. Party Supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik suspended the high-profile MP from party’s primary membership for his alleged anti-party activities. It was alleged that Panda had openly campaigned for opposition candidates in his constituency during the last Panchayat elections. Later on May 28, Panda resigned from the party.
Meanwhile, speculations are rife that Panda would join BJP soon which has neither been confirmed or denied by the politician or his office.
2-BJD’s victory in Bijepur By-poll
One of the major achievements that the ruling BJD cheered for in 2018 was the party’s landslide victory in the by-poll to Bijepur Assembly constituency in Bargarh district. The party won the by-election in style by grabbing a staggering 56 per cent of the polled votes in February.
3-Three from BJD elected to Rajya Sabha
BJD candidates Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, Prashanta Nanda and Dr Achyuta Samanta were elected uncontested to Rajya Sabha from Odisha in April. They replaced BJD MPs Dilip Tirkey, AU Singh Deo and BJD-backed independent candidate AV Swami.
4-Niranjan Patnaik appointed OPCC chief
In view of the Congress’ poor performance in 2017 Panchayat elections in the State and growing resentment within the party, AICC replaced Prasad Harichandan as Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President by handing over the mantle to veteran leader Niranjan Patnaik in April.
5-Suspension of Dama Rout
After Baijayant Panda, suspension of one more heavyweight leader from ruling BJD made much noise in State politics this year. Known for his satirical yet controversial remarks, senior leader and former Minister Dr Damodar Rout was suspended from the party in September for anti-party activities. The move came a few days after the former Minister alleged financial irregularities in a few state government departments. A day before his suspension, hundreds of BJD workers from Jagatsinghpur district had met Patnaik at his residence demanding Rout’s suspension for his ‘anti-party activities’.
6-Aparajita Sarangi joins BJP
A major turning point came for the Opposition BJP in Odisha when former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi joined the party in November. The 1994-batch officer joined the saffron party at the residence of party’s national president Amit Shah in New Delhi on November 27 after her voluntary retirement was approved by the Centre on November 16. She had applied for voluntary retirement from service on September 15.
7- Bijay Mohapatra & Dilip Ray quits BJP
The Odisha BJP received a major jolt, just two days after Aparajita Sarangi joined party, when two heavyweights- former Union Minister Dilip Ray and national executive member Bijoy Mohapatra- quit the party citing infighting in the party. While Mohapatra alleged that he was not given due importance in party which guided him to take such decision, Ray resigned expressing displeasure over the Centre’s negligence towards construction of second bridge over Brahmani river and upgradation of Ispat General Hospital (IGH) into a super specialty hospital in Rourkela.
8-Srikant Jena dropped from Congress manifesto panel
Former Union Minister Srikant Jena was removed from the poll manifesto committee of Odisha Congress as its chairman. He was replaced by former Minister and OPCC Vice-president Ganeswar Behera.
9-KCR embarks on federal front mission from Odisha
A few days after swearing-in as the chief minister of Telangana, K Chandrashekar Rao began his tour to various States to bring regional forces together to take on BJP at the Centre in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Odisha, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao met his Odisha counterpart to discuss an alternate front ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
10- Modi-Naveen war of words
The end month of the year witnessed a high-voltage war of words between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with both targeting each other without taking names at separate public meetings. While Modi, during his recent visit to Odisha, targeted the Naveen Government alleging rampant corruption in the State, CM Naveen, on BJD’s foundation day, launched a counter attack on Modi by putting nine questions highlighting the Centre’s failures.