Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Kendrapara, Apr 3:
Bijay Mohapatra, the one man who has been unwavering in his opposition to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has hit back with full force at the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo where it is sure to hurt him the most.
“Let Naveen Patnaik tell the people of Odisha when he met his father Biju Patnaik last before his death in April 1997,” the BJP candidate in Mahakalpada said in a stinging response to Patnaik’s insinuation, without naming him, at an election meeting yesterday that he had betrayed Biju leading to the defeat of his party in the 1995 Assembly elections.
It is well known that Naveen, who led a bohemian life in New Delhi’s socialite circles till Biju’s death catapulted him to the helm of affairs in the party, was nowhere to be seen when his father was seriously ailing in the last few months of his life. It was Dilip Ray, another senior leader whom Naveen showed the door after taking over the party, who looked after the old man in his last days. Old Biju loyalists vouch for the fact that Naveen did not bother to visit his father even once – whether at Ray’s New Delhi residence where he was staying in his last few months or at the hospital where he was admitted for treatment.
“I was one of the persons who brought him into Odisha politics in 1997. How does he know what happened in 1995? He knows it better than anyone else that Biju Babu never discussed politics with his family members, least of all with him. In any case, he was nowhere to be seen when Biju Babu was alive. He is obviously making the allegation either based on hearsay or is imagining it. I challenge him to a one-on-one public debate on the issue which I am sure would reveal the truth about who betrayed whom,” said the man who was the chairman of the Political Affairs Committee of the BJD before being stabbed in the back in the 2000 Assembly elections by the dirty tricks department of Naveen.
In fact, if anybody was ‘betrayed’, it was Bijay Mohapatra and by none other than the BJD president, of course with a little help from the erstwhile ‘Chanakya’ Pyari Mohan Mohapatra who headed his dirty tricks department at the time. Mohapatra’s ticket was withdrawn at the eleventh hour on the last day of filing nominations in the 2000 Assembly election, leaving him no option other than lending his weight behind Trilochan Behera of the Trinamool Congress who went on to win with a massive margin.
But Naveen’s desperate bid to prevent the entry of Mohapatra did not end with the defeat of the party’s official candidate Atanu Sabyascahi Nayak. Apprehensive that Behera could vacate the seat to facilitate Mohapatra’s entry into the Assembly through the by-election route, Naveen used a mixture of inducement and threat, a strategy that has stood him in good stead in ‘fixing’ his real or imagined rivals in the party or outside, to win over Behera.
The BJD supremo, aided by Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, moved heaven and earth in the next two elections – in 2004 and 2009 – as well to see to it that Bijay did not win the elections. And his decision to airdash to Mahakalpada (which goes to polls in the second phase) in the middle of campaigning for the first phase of elections suggests that there has been no change in his antipathy towards his bête noire and his determination to block Mohapatra’s road back to the Assembly.
Having shifted from Patkura to Mahakalpada this time, Mohapatra has made it amply clear that it will be his last election.