Cracking the whip in a bid to check dissidence in ruling Biju Janata Dal, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday suspended dissident leader and member of Parliament Pyari Mohan Mohapatra and sacked two of his ministers from the government.
The sacked ministers are Anjali Behera, cabinet minister in charge of women and child development, and Minister of Commerce and Transport Sanjiv Sahu.
Making the announcement, the chief minister said he has written a letter to the Governor recommending their removal. Apart from Mohapatra, a bureaucrat-turned key strategist and an adviser to Patnaik for over a decade, who has turned a dissident leader now, two MLAs -- Prabath Biswal and Bibuti Balwant Rai -- were also suspended from BJD.
The CM, also the BJD chief, returning from London after cutting short a trip, said he has taken these decisions after discussing the issue with senior leaders, ministers and MPs. He held a series of meetings on Friday with BJD leaders some of who claimed there was an attempt to topple the government during a meeting at Mohapatra's house in Bhubaneswar.
"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.
Rout said most of the legislators further informed that they were asked to put their signature on a paper with some claiming that exercise was aimed at giving their consent for making Mohapatra the BJD legislature party leader.
Earlier this week, cracks appeared in the party as two groups held separate meetings at the houses of Mohapatra and Patnaik, who was on an official visit to London.
At least 21 BJD legislators, including three ministers met at the house of Mohapatra with some leaders terming the exercise as a "pressure tactics" by one group close to the Rajya Sabha member at a time when Patnaik is away.
Reacting to the development Patnaik deplored the attempts to divide the party and said he would shortly return to Bhubaneswar.
"I understand that in my absence an MP of my party is stirring trouble against my state government. And also trying to divide the Biju Janata Dal. This is deplorable," Patnaik had told PTI in London.
A day after triggering speculation of cracks in ruling BJD in Odisha by holding a meeting of a group of MLAs, Mohapatra on Friday ruled out any threat to Patnaik and said he had no plan to topple the government.
"There is absolutely no threat to Patnaik from me. He is completely safe as chief minister as he is the leader of the BJD," Mohapatra, who is regarded as chief adviser and strategist of the ruling BJD, told reporters here scotching speculation about possible revolt in the party.
Claiming that he had no aspiration to become the CM, Mohapatra said there was no move at all to topple the government headed by Patnaik. "Had I wanted to become the chief minister I could have tried long ago instead of waiting for so many years ... I could have tried in 2009 also," the former bureaucrat turned Rajya Sabha MP said.
He said the chief minister had called him on Thursday night from abroad and enquired about several legislators gathering at his house and he explained to Patnaik that there was no formal meeting and that some MLAs had visited his house only to discuss their grievances and party matters.