Naveen holds a series of meeting with BJP leaders

Bhubaneswar: Cutting short his UK visit after reports of revolt in the party in his absence, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today held a series of meetings with BJD leaders, some of whom claimed there was an attempt to topple the government during a meeting at party MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra`s house here.

A senior party leader said that besides interacting with leaders in groups, the chief minister held one-to-one meetings with party MLAs, including about 20 of those who had attended the meeting at the house of Mohapatra, a long-time strategist and adviser of ruling BJD.

"Yes, there was an attempt to topple the government in the absence of Naveen Patnaik when he was away in Britain. It was revealed by many BJD MLAs who attended the meeting at Mohapatra`s house on Tuesday night", senior BJD leader and former minister Damodar Rout told reporters here.

Rout said most of the legislators further informed that they were asked to put their signature on a paper with some claiming that the exercise was aimed at giving their consent for making Mohapatra the BJD legislature party leader.

"I had been called to Pyari babu`s house. When I reached there I saw others. I was asked to sign on a paper and later I found that it was meant for obtaining consent of MLAs for making Mohapatra the BJD legislature party leader", claimed Sushant Singh, MLA from Bhatli.

To a query, Rout also said the Congress had no role in the reported game plan to topple the Naveen government.

Mohapatra, who was not immediately available today for comment had, however, claimed at a press conference here on Wednesday that there was no plan to topple the government and Patnaik was safe both as chief minister and BJD president. "But I went there with the permission of Pradip Panigrahy, MLA from Gopalpur and chief minister`s district representative, to get information", he said.

"Swain`s visit to Pyari babu`s house helped us a lot as we came to know about a plan to stage a revolt and topple the government. On the basis of information given by him immediate steps were taken to prevent a coup", Panigrahy said.

The meeting at the MP`s house, held in the absence of Patnaik, had triggered speculation about cracks and a possible revolt in the ruling BJD though Mohapatra on Wednesday ruled out any threat to Naveen government from him.

Patnaik returned here to a rousing welcome by thousands of party men and supporters who took the chief minister in a grand procession from Biju Patnaik airport to Naveen Niwas amid bursting of crackers, beating of drums and blowing of conch shells. The show by the party men was to demonstrate their unflinching support for Patnaik.

Apart from one-to-one discussion, the chief minister held separate meetings with groups of leaders including ministers. About 95 of the 104 BJD legislators turned up at Naveen Niwas for the exercise during which Patnaik also sought suggestions from party men.

However, there was no indication as to whether the chief minister would take any disciplinary action. "Naveen babu will not take any hasty decision. He is listening to everyone before taking a stand", said a senior leader.

In a show of strength on his return from UK, Patnaik had last night held a meeting with party leaders and said an appropriate decision would be taken at the right time on the reported dissidence.

Of the three ministers who were present at Tuesday`s meeting at Mohapatra`s place, Sharada Nayak and Sanjeev Sahoo visited the chief minister`s house today but Anjali Behera was conspicuous by her absence.

Some MLAs including Sushant Singh, Subarna Nayak, Bhagaban Kanhara, Debendra Kanhara, Sanjeeb Pradhan and Purnachandra Swain interacted with the media after the meeting with Patnaik.

Another BJD legislator said he had been called by Mohapatra to his house and when he reached there he found several other MLAs being asked to sign on a paper.

"When some of us saw the operative part in the document we realised that preparations were going on for staging a revolt", he said, adding, the MLAs were being sent to a luxury hotel from Mohapatra`s Saheed Nagar house.

Purnachandra Swain, MLA from Sorada in the chief minister`s home district of Ganjam, said he was reluctant to visit Mohapatra`s house after getting a call from the Rajya Sabha MP.