Op-Ed: What Is Dama Rout Upto?

The decks have been cleared. With senior BJD leader Dr. Damodar Rout himself publicly saying today that he is no more with the BJD, it is only a matter of time before he finds himself formally out of the party. Just about the only point of interest at this stage is whether he, like Baijayant Panda before him, would resign on his own or wait for the supremo to sack him. Going by his utterances in the last 4-5 days, the Paradip MLA appears to be almost ‘pleading’ with the leader to suspend/sack him.

The all too familiar routine of BJD leaders, MLAs and workers of the area trooping to Naveen Nivas to ask for action against the veteran leader is the surest possible sign that Dama Babu’s days in the ruling party are numbered. But the question that his recent moves have raised is why is he doing what he is doing? Of course, the voluble MLA from Paradip has never been known for restraint when it comes to speaking in public, even when he was a minister and a party vice president. But the spate of serious allegations of corruption he has raked up in the last few days have a sting that his earlier plain speaking lacked because it hits where it hurts the party supremo the most. For one thing, his allegations of corruption in the Horticulture and Cooperation departments and OMFED cannot be brushed away like corruption charges leveled by the Opposition since he is a senior leader of the BJD, who was been a Cabinet minister for the better part of the 16 years since he joined the party. For another, his repeated references to the ‘godfather’ have helped deepen the impression about the officer wielding tremendous clout in both the ruling party and the government. When Jay Panda launched a tirade against the same officer, it was attributed to his ‘hobnobbing’ with the BJP. But with Dama making it abundantly clear that he is not going to join any party, including the BJP, in case he is thrown out of BJD, the charge of working in tandem with the Congress and the BJP leveled by Jagatsinghpur district BJD president Bishnu Das and Erasama-Balikuda MLA Prashant Muduli does not stick.

The allegation made by BJD leaders and spokespersons that Dama is raising corruption issues because he is peeved at being sacked from the council of ministers does not carry much weight either. After all, he was dropped from the cabinet about nine months ago. If he is only venting out his anger and frustration at his ouster from the cabinet and the party post, he would have done it much earlier. Why is he raising these issues now when elections are just a few months away? And that too at a time when his wife is on ventilator at the Apollo Hospital?

If sources are to be believed, Dama Babu’s no-holds-barred attack against the party and the government is part of the move for formation of a new regional party to be launched by a few old warhorses which  were earlier with the BJD. According to these sources, the other leaders behind the move are Bijay Mohapatra and Dillip Ray (both of them are presently sulking members of the BJP), former minister Panchanan Kanungo and former MP Baijayant Panda with senior leaders Prafulla Ghadai and former Union minister Braja Kishore Tripathy likely to join in later. The idea behind the move is to undercut the stranglehold of the BJD in coastal Odisha where it has been unassailable in past elections. In this context, it is revealing to note that Dr. Rout is from Jagatsinghpur, Ghadai from Jajpur, Mohapatra from Kendrapara and Tripathy from Puri. Though nothing has been finalized yet, it is possible that the new party would have some kind of a tacit understanding with the BJP in its bid to take on Naveen Patnaik.

At the moment, it certainly appears a tall order for any party – or a combination of parties – to dislodge Naveen Patnaik from power. But as they say, a week is a long time in politics. And there are several weeks left for the election. A lot can change between now and election time. Whatever it is, we are certainly in for some interesting times in the run up to the next polls.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same).

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