Poor Pappu (Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik's pet name), his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is caught in a "war" with two MPs slugging it out on Twitter, allegations of MPs set to defect to the BJP, and counter op-eds flying about.
If the public infighting was not bad enough, BJP president Amit Shah, who has an insatiable appetite for gobbling up state after state, is eyeing Odisha as ripe for the picking. The BJP is set to hold its national executive in Odisha on April 15-16, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in attendance.
Trouble has been brewing for a while now and with the BJD's high-flying MP Jay Panda and Tathagata Satpathy's Twitter feud has everything now out in the open.
Satpathy, without naming Panda, has accused the BJP of "trying to create an All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazgam type party in Parliament with the support of one BJD MP".
Patnaik's party has dominated Odisha for 17 years in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. The polls are scheduled for 2019.
|Satpathy, who has been increasingly vocal of late, has also attacked Prime Minister Modi, saying the BJP wanted to bring the elections forward.|
Satpathy, who has been increasingly vocal of late, has also attacked Prime Minister Modi saying the BJP wanted to bring the elections forward. He tweeted: "I promise to pay the bearer... Modi broke the nation's promise. BJP says 'I promise to pay the defector with new cash and ticket' wonder."
Panda took a swinging counter-punch and when tagged and asked if Satpathy was referring to him and said, "He speaks w/expertise having once been suspended from BJD and joined another party. I don't have such experience so will defer to his tweet."
Panda added fuel to the fire by writing a scathing op-ed in an Odisha newspaper where he criticised his own party and appeared to praise the dynamism of Modi of whom he has been an ardent public admirer.
The big fight between the MPs even had a selfie row breaking out as Panda tweeted a selfie with Satpathy from Parliament yesterday (March 28) only to be publicly snubbed by the latter who tweeted: "Saw some selfies from Central Hall. I'm civil. Don't feel like stopping colleagues from tweeting them."
???? In Central Hall today, "a rose between two thorns." A pat on the back to millennials who can say who said that in history without Googling pic.twitter.com/S2W1HlKJ10— Baijayant Jay Panda (@PandaJay) March 28, 2017
The BJD has 20 Lok Sabha MPs and seven in the Rajya Sabha. My sources tell me that two of the Lok Sabha MPs are open BJP cheerleaders and are ripe to defect. Both have grabbed every public opportunity to ingratiate themselves with the government.
A MP who is privy to their shenanigans tells me in confidence that "such people are highly deserving. They deserve to be with the ruling establishment whoever is in power because politics for them is a way of furthering their corporate interests". He points out that one of the MPs cosying up to the BJP has done nothing to further the legislative agenda of the BJD and does not even bother to attend the party meeting in Parliament.
"He occasionally strolls in like the lord of the manor or a master of the universe," says the MP. Satpathy is the chief whip of the BJD and the party held a meeting yesterday (March 28) which was not attended by Panda.
My sources also talk of the MP having been equally close to the ruling establishment in the UPA years and even facilitating parties at a private residence for some foreigner dealing in arms.
"Naveen has given these people two terms in the Rajya Sabha and tickets to the Lok Sabha. He has been nothing, but nice to them so what exactly is the problem? It's only a desire to ensure that they are part of the deal-making establishment. They are only in politics to further business interests. Naveen knows, but unlike the late J Jayalalithaa will not confront them," says another MP.
By going public with the feud, the rival camp believes that they have flushed out the defectors who are now in the public eye. "Cosy support for the BJP and attendance at ministers functions complete with selfies will not work anymore as we have robbed them of the element of surprise," says a BJD leader.
If the elections are held on schedule, Patnaik would be in power for a mind-blogging 20 years. An entire generation of voters would grow up without having seen any other government. So the struggle to defeat the huge anti-incumbency with the BJP snapping at his heels is consuming him.
Patnaik transformed himself when he took over as the Odisha CM. And having once allied with the BJP, he has closed that option. Besides, the BJP, sensing opportunity, wants to be in power on its own.
My sources say Patnaik is aware of the fierce battle in the Parliamentary party and is taking a ruthless view. It may be recalled that he's known for silent all-out strikes on perceived enemies such as the one when he broke the alliance with the BJP in March 2009, or stripped the then all important political advisor Pyarimohan Mohapatra, who died recently, of all power in the state administration.
As of now, with accusations flying thick and fast, Patnaik is strategising on how to hold on to his citadel. Some members of his family may soon join politics and he will announce a slew of schemes designed to thwart the BJP's Odisha march. Whatever happens next will be interesting to find out.