Jay Panda-BJD fall apart, Naveen could not hold

Baijayant Panda tendered his resignation from the BJD through a letter to CM Naveen Patnaik. A Parliamentarian since 2000, he was one of the prominent and popular leaders both within Odisha and outside. Of late, he had a rift with BJD chief Naveen Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Amid simmering discontentment, Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda, one of the founding members of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) tendered his resignation from the party on Monday. The Parliamentarian announced his decision to dissociate from the party after submitting his resignation to BJD supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in a three-page letter.

“It is with deep anguish, hurt and sorrow that I have decided to quit the kind of politics into which our BJD has descended,” wrote Panda in his letter.

Along with Baijayant Panda, former president of BJD Kendrapara Minority Cell Salim Khan and student leader Prafulla Swain also tender their resignations from BJD. Panda’s political secretary Jyoti Prakash Ghose also tendered his resignation from primary membership of the party.

Panda further expressed his anguish over several reasons and turn out of events that forced him to quit BJD.

Political pundits believe that Baijayant Panda’s resignation is a setback for the ruling BJD ahead of the 2019 elections as he is an ‘asset’ for his commitment towards the development of Odisha as well his own parliamentary constituency, Kendrapara.

The parliamentarian was facing opposition from within the BJD since the day he started to raise his voice against injustice and mis-functioning of the party.

The infighting in BJD came to fore when Baijayant Panda was attacked with stones, eggs while he had gone to attend a public meeting at Mahanga in May last year. Though this had then sparked off widespread resentment, BJD CM Naveen Patnaik’s silence on the entire incident had come as a surprise.

The rift between Panda and party supremo widened after the former publicly pointed fingers at CM’s private secretary VK Pandian for orchestrating a conspiracy.

Although things have been going from bad to worse for the past four years, it has plumbed the absolute depths of inhumanity when neither you nor anyone from the BJD turned up to pay their last respects to my father Dr Bansidhar Panda, who as everyone knows was a very close friend, supporter, and associate of Biju uncle for many decades. In stark contrast, thousands of well wishers came to pay last respects, including senior leaders of all other political parties

——– Baijayant Panda in his letter.

“MP Baijayant Panda was fighting against the system to bring in a change. But he lost. Had he fought a battle with CM Naveen Patnaik, he might have succeeded. But the movement was diverted after he started pointing fingers at CM’s private secretary VK Pandian,” said Congress leader Sarat Rout.

Senior BJP leader Biswabhusan Harichandan said,” It seems that an ‘invisible hand’ prevented CM Naveen Patnaik and other BJD leaders from paying tributes to noted industrialist of Odisha late Bansidhar Panda, who was closely associated with former CM Biju Patnaik; This is indecent & unacceptable.”

BJD vice-president, Debi Prasad Mishra on the other hand stated that the party would take appropriate stand on resignation issue soon.

“At a time when the family of MP Baijayant Panda is in mourning over the loss of industrialist Bansidhar Panda, BJD would refrain from making any statements on Panda’s resignation till completion of all funeral rites. The party will however, make its stand clear at right time,” said Mishra.

Timeline of events that led to Jay Panda’s resignation:

  • May 12, 2017, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik removed Baijayant Panda from being the party spokesperson
  • January 24, 2018, Baijayant Panda was suspended from the primary membership of BJD for allegedly indulging in anti-party activities.
  • March 6, 2018: BJD Parliamentary leader Bhartruhari Mahatab wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to remove Baijayant Panda from Parliamentary Standing Committee and make special arrangements for his seat in the House.

Here is the complete letter of resignation of MP Baijayant Panda submitted to BJD chief Naveen Patnaik:

I was heartbroken when several BJD colleagues conveyed that they had been restrained from coming by to pay their last respects to the departed soul. That the BJD does not want me anymore, and in fact wants me out, is now irrefutably clear. I have stoically borne many humiliations over the past four years, but this is the last straw, it is now beyond my self respect to continue to be associated with the party in an atmosphere as mean minded as this.

Apart from our long family friendship, I had been touched that Biju uncle saw it fit to involve me in his political activities in the last two years of his life from 1995 to 1997. Although he passed away without being able to found the new party that some of us had been advocating, it was my proud privilege to be associated with your plunge into politics in 1997 from the very first day itself, from assisting in your by election as a Janata Dal candidate to fill Biju uncle’s seat, to your founding of the BJD six months later, and thereafter.

I had stood by you and the party through thick and thin, unhesitatingly helping you to take on the many challenges faced over the years, including when the parliamentary party had split in 2002, and the events of May 29th, 2012.

It had not been easy in the initial years, when many had doubts about whether the BJD and you would last. This was true both in Odisha and especially in Delhi, where I unflinchingly defended you day in and day out for all these years. I had not done that with any calculation, but based on principles, my unconditional affection for you, and my hope for a better Odisha. It is ironic that many of the worst opponents and critics of you during our party’s first dozen years are now holding key positions in the party, while most of those who struggled with you to overcome them have been discarded.

I had never hesitated to take on challenges to help establish and grow the party, from my first Rajya Sabha election in 2000 when you had informed me at Shri AU Singhdeo’s home that because of the turmoil in the party following the departure of Shri Bijay Mohapatra, you could only muster 15 of the 37 votes necessary for the party to win that seat. This was also true in 2009 when you showed me the survey report indicating that Kendrapada would be an extremely close contest and could go either way, and I assured you I would take up the challenge and ensure a victory to uphold your prestige.

I have since given my heart and soul for the development of Kendrapada, visiting each and every of the several hundred panchayats (at three of which I was told no other MP had ever visited before). I have also relentlessly pursued hundreds of infrastructure projects which had languished on paper for decades I am especially glad that our first ever rail line construction got started during my tenure and will soon be completed, for which I have conducted innumerable reviews in the field, besides relentlessly following up in Delhi and Bhubaneswar to unclog bottlenecks like land acquisition and timely release of funds.

I have also dedicated MPLAD funds for large projects needed and demanded by the public, rather than on other unethical considerations. You yourself have been appealing for others to follow this same principle and reject the so called “PC Culture” of corruption. I am especially proud of the large number of drinking water projects that have been built from MPLAD funds in Kendrapada, representing the highest such expenditure anywhere in the country. But it is a disgrace that since last year some of these have been opposed and obstructed by BJD people, including by violent methods.

In fact, as you would recall, from 2014 onwards i had several times privately brought to your attention the party’s deviation from its original philosophy of humility and transparency, as well as the hurdles I was facing due to an internal conspiracy against me. I did not make my views public until after you yourself gave a public call for introspection after the Panchayat elections last year. Only then did I write a column in the Samaja newspaper, doing just that, an introspection recalling the party’s original strengths, the deviation into goondaism and corruption, and suggesting the necessary corrective steps.

Thereafter, of course, I have been viciously targeted, including being physically assaulted with stones, bricks and eggs last May in Mahanga. I was extremely saddened that even then you did not bother to call to inquire about my health and safety, nor even when we met several times thereafter at party forums. For your information. I have been undergoing treatment for physical injury to my shoulder on that occasion.

The unceasing humiliations I have been subjected to since 2014 are in the public domain, from being boycotted by party members at statutory constituency review meetings “under instructions from above”, to open threats of violence by some BJD members via press conferences, actual instances of violence following these threats, false cases against me, fake allegations of anti party activities, Kangaroo court inquiries against me by tainted personalities, that too concluded within two days and without my being formally informed of the charges or given a chance to respond; and finally being suspended from the party by such dubious means. As if that were not enough, the orchestrated threats and inducements to make my supporters denounce me have become public through sensational disclosures in the media, including a widely circulated audio clip. Also, the unethical harassment of my relatives and the organisations connected with them are by now known to everyone. These are all reprehensible Stalinist tactics, misusing government powers, and do not have any place in a political party of the world’s largest democracy in the 21st century.

I have strived to live up to the highest standards of public life. No bureaucrat or politician, either at the state or national level, can claim that I have ever sought a pecuniary favour, nor can any member of the public. I have used the public platform not for any personal gains, but always to push for systemic reforms for the greater good of India and Odisha. You had repeatedly complimented me for this throughout most of my 18 years in Parliament, until recently.

I will always cherish having been one of the pallbearers of. Biju uncle at his funeral. But the party that bears his name has deviated very, far from what he stood for Till now I had been hoping for and repeatedly appealing for you to do justice, but it is now clear that I was naive and that is not to be. Now on the seventh day of my bereavement, before I embark on the prescribed religious rituals, I realise that I have been bereaved in more ways than one My faith that I was assisting you in a party that was decent and committed to certain principles, has also died.

With the BJD and you yourself having made it abundantly clear that I am unwanted, it is only right for me to dissociate from it. Separately, I will be conveying my decision formally to the Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha to accept my resignation from that August institution upon completion of my religious obligations of bereavement.