Naveen sacks Pyari, two MLAs from party

Bhubaneswar: In a bid to nip in the bud dissidence in the ruling BJD, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday suspended Rajya Sabha member and dissidents` leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra from the party and sacked two ministers.

Three days after an alleged aborted attempt to topple his government, Patnaik, who returned here from the UK on Thursday cutting short his visit there, also announced suspension of MLAs Pravat Biswal and Bibhuti Balabantray after a day-long consultation with the senior party leaders and legislators.

The ministers who have been dismissed were Anjali Behera (Women and Child Development, cabinet) Sanjeev Sahu Commerce and Transport, Minister of State).

"I have forwarded a letter to His Excellency Governor of Odisha requesting him for dismissal of Smt. Anjali Behera as the cabinet minister and minister of state Sanjeev Sahu in the government," Patnaik told reporters.

The action came as the chief minister took strong exception to a meeting held by dissidents at the house of Mohapatra, who was once his chief strategist, here on Tuesday night when Patnaik was away on a visit to the UK.

Mohapatra, a bureaucrat-turned-politician, hit back at Patnaik accusing him of being a "traitor" and claimed "I have been a victim of a group of conspirators. I have worked very hard for the party and the chief minister. The people of the state will consider the matter," Mohapatra told reporters reacting to his suspension from BJD.

"The entire party has been built by my hard labour and this man (Patanaik) has turned out to be traitor," Mohapatra said but ruled out a split in the party. Mohapatra, who has been accused of leading the group attempting to topple the BJD government led by Patnaik, said he was expecting such an action.

Earlier Mohapatra had dared Patnaik to take action against him. "Who has the guts to suspend me? I am strongly placed in BJD. However, the BJD president can suspend me but it has to be endorsed by the party`s state executive," Mohapatra had said.

Patnaik, after his return from London on Thursday night had announced that he would be taking the "right decision at the right time" after consulting MLAs and party`s senior leaders.

Naveen Niwas, the residence of the Chief Minister, witnessed hectic political activities since Thursday night with Patnaik holding talks with MLAs, ministers and MPs.

While two ministers Behera and Sahu have been dismissed from the council of minister, Housing and Urban Development Minister Sarda Prasad Nayak was spared. Nayak was among the three ministers who had attended the meeting convened by Mohapatra on May 29 at his residence at Saheed Nagar.

Patnaik`s action was welcomed by the BJD vice-president and Finance Minister Prafulla Ghadai while a section of leaders hoped stringent action is taken against a few others who were part of the alleged conspiracy to topple the government. "Patnaik had no alternative to taking action against the two ministers, the two MLAs and the MP. The action has been welcomed by one and all and it would have no impact on BJD as a whole," Ghadai said.

Party MLA Debasis Samantray said "action should also be taken against some others who had played roles in making an unsuccessful bid to topple the government."

The chief minister cracked the whip after holding a series of meetings on Friday with BJD leaders some of whom claimed there was an attempt to topple the government during a meeting at Mohapatra`s house here.

"Yes, there was an attempt to topple the government in the absence of Naveen Patnaik when he was 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 on Friday.

Rout said most of the legislators said 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 the consent of the MLAs for making Mohapatra the BJD legislature party leader," claimed Sushant Singh, MLA from Bhatli.

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. "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 had triggered speculation about cracks and a possible revolt in BJD though Mohapatra had on Wednesday ruled out any threat to Naveen government from him.

BJD vice-president and former minister Damodar Rout said action is likely to be taken against more legislators as information about their role in dissidence activities are being collected.