Pull No Punches: The Eventful Friday

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | March 23, 2024 IST

Srimoy Kar

By Srimoy Kar

Friday, the March 22, 2024, was an eventful day for Odisha and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) as well. The day unfolded with the news of Dr. Damodar Rout’s demise, who was a celebrated political stalwart and a staunch follower of late Chief Minister Biju Patnaik. As the day progressed, the suspense over the possible electoral tie up between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and BJD also came to a rest. The third big news which came a little later was the resignation of the six-time MP from Cuttack Bhartruhari Mahatab from BJD of which he was a significant face for the last 24 years.

 Damodar Rout, who tasted his first electoral success in 1977 in the aftermath of the emergency, ironically, loved being a stormy petrel throughout his career spanning over five decades and was never sorry for paying the price for being so. The seven-time legislator lost minister ship at least on three occasions for his daring stand and open revolt. Out and out a Biju loyalist, he had a mind of his own which, at times, bordered on recklessness and his biggest bane was his acerbic tongue. But how many of us know that it was Rout who named March 5, the birthday of Biju Babu, as the Panchayatiraj Diwas? The man who began his career as a veterinary doctor scaled dizzy heights as one of the sharpest political minds in the state. Expelled from BJD prior to 2019 elections following which he contested unsuccessfully as a BJP candidate from Balikuda in Jagatsinghpur district for the Assembly, the ailing war horse must have been very pleased when his expulsion was revoked in January last.

The severance from the BJD announced later in the day by the sitting MP from Cuttack, Bhartruhari Mahtab may not have come as a surprise to many but it did kick up some political dust in the run up to the coming elections. The six-time MP, the Editor of The Prajatantra, was one of the founding members of the BJD whose performance in the Parliament was highly praised including getting him the best parliamentarian award.Given his frayed relationship with the party’s present dispensation, there were murmurs of his not getting renomination in the next polls. Besides, his reported closeness to BJP of late was something that was not going in his favour and he has been admittedly feeling suffocated in the party for a long time. Perhaps, the recent framing of charges against him on the basis of a complaint of misbehaviour by a police sub-inspector in Cuttack way back in 2011 gave him a clear message that he has fallen out of BJD Supremo Naveen Patnaik’s grace. Hence, the MP, known for his reticence and measured talks, announced his resignation from the party with a `broken heart’ clearly hinting that things are not hunky dory in the ruling party.

Mahatab’s case brings into mind how two other media bosses, Tathagata Satapathy and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, were dealt with by the party. Satapathy, the owner and Editor of a leading Odia daily Dharitri, who won Dhenkanal MP seat as a BJD candidate four times, volunteered to stay out of electoral politics a few days before 2019 polls. Rumours were that he too had lost the confidence of Naveen Patnaik and his ticket from BJD was doubtful. It is another story that he has reportedly come back to the party fold recently. Lastly, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, the baron of the biggest media house in the state and the former Editor of the highly circulated The Sambad and the sitting BJD legislator from Khandapada, stands expelled from the party. His belligerent criticism of former IAS officer and the present power centre of BJD, proved costly including losing the position of editorship as well. That is the story of editors who were an integral part of the BJD.

Coming to the other development of the day, the fortnight long speculation over BJP and BJD poll tie up which was nothing sort of a roller coaster ride for the leaders and the workers of both the parties, the exercise ended in a whimper. Despite the bonhomie between the two parties, going to the polls separately was, perhaps, in their best interest.

The author is former Resident Editor of New Indian Express. He can be contacted at [email protected] 

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com)

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