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Anti-Naveen revolt snowballs, two Orissa stalwarts join BJP

Anti-Naveen revolt snowballs, two Orissa stalwarts join BJP

Author: Pioneer News Service
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 24, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/164783/Anti-Naveen-revolt-snowballs-two-Orissa-stalwarts-join-BJP.html

In the wake of BJP-BJD split in Orissa, key detractors of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik have begun to align with the BJP, strengthening the party even as it braces itself for a direct electoral battle with its former ally of nine years.

Dilip Ray and Bijoy Mohapatra, two veterans of Orissa politics credited with forming the Biju Janata Dal and installing Naveen Patnaik as Chief Minister after the demise of his father, the legendary Biju Patnaik, have decided to join the BJP.

Both fell out with Naveen Patnaik five years ago and were expelled from the BJD. Sources in Orissa said the fresh development was a "turning point for the BJP and the State's politic" as the two heavyweights commanded considerable influence.

While Mohapatra after his expulsion went on to form a regional outfit - Orissa Gana Praishad - before merging it with the Nationalist Congress Party, Ray was nominated to the Rajya Sabha as an independent and worked as an 'associate member' of the Congress.

Both the leaders were close to Biju Patnaik who shaped a new political destiny for Orissa. The legendary politician in fact spent the last years of his life at Ray's home.

The move comes on the heels of BJD's Kendrapara member of Parliament Archana Nayak's decision to switch over to the BJP, thereby dealing a blow to Naveen Patnaik.

Archana Nayak was upset with Naveen Patnaik's decision to snap ties with the BJP, his intention to rope in an outsider for the Kendrapara seat and rejection of her demand for contesting the Assembly poll.

Ray and Mohapatra met NDA prime ministerial candidate LK Advani on Sunday and called on BJP chief Rajnath Singh at his residence here on Monday; promising to stand by the BJP in its fight against Naveen Patnaik.

Mohapatra recently stepped down as president of the Orissa unit of the NCP following disagreement with Sharad Pawar over supporting the Chief Minister. Ray said it was their "collective fight" to unseat the BJD Government and 'expose' Naveen Patnaik.

"Both the stalwarts of Orissa politics have decided to accept the membership of BJP and repose their faith in our policies," Rajnath Singh told reporters here, adding they would formally join the party on March 27.

While Rajnath said Ray and Mohaptra had not demanded tickets to contest elections, party sources pointed out that the latter may be fielded from Patkura Assembly constituency. They added that Dilip would concentrate on strengthening the BJP in Orissa and may be nominated to the Upper House of Parliament later.

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