Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Naveen Pantaik on Thursday suspended his two cabinet colleagues from the party including his close aide P M Mahapatra following the reports of revolt within the party.

Cutting short his Britain visit after reports of revolt led by his close aide Mahapatra in his absence, Naveen Patnaik on Friday held a series of meetings with BJD leaders before deciding to take strict action against the party rebels to quell any chance of split within the party. Earlier, it was reported that around 25 BJD MLAs and four ministers met Pyari Mohan Mahapatra at his residence in the absence of the Chief Minister.

Before meeting with the party leaders, Patnaik had indicated about his decision by saying that "Right decision will be taken at right time".

Cracking the whip in a bid to check dissidence in ruling BJD, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik suspended dissident leader and MP 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 Chief Minister, who is also the BJD chief and who 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 whom claimed there was an attempt to topple the government during a meeting at Mohapatra's house here.

"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 here on Friday.

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 party MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra and Chief Minister Naveen 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 said in London.

A day after triggering speculation of cracks in ruling BJD in Odisha by holding a meeting of a group of MLAs, party MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra on Friday ruled out any threat to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and said he had no plan to topple the government.

"There is absolutely no threat to Naveen 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 Chief Minister, Mohapatra said there was no move at all to topple the government headed by Patnaik. "Had I wanted to become 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 last 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.

Referring to the Chief Minister's reported remark deploring last night's developments, he said Patnaik's comment was a result of "misleading" information given to him by some party leaders, who also held a meeting at Naveen Niwas as a "panic reaction" late last night.

Patnaik had last night deplored the attempts to divide the party.

"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 said in London.
  
Later Mohapatra piped down saying he had no plans to topple the government and Patnaik's government was safe.

However, he admitted to differences with Patnaik as he felt that the state government was gradually "losing control due to arrogance of bureaucrats".

"I had drawn the attention of the chief minister to this trend but little action has been taken. As a result arrogance of bureaucrats is increasing day by day," he claimed.

The meeting at Mohapatra's house was attended by Housing and Urban Development Minister Sharada Nayak, Commerce and Transport Minister Sanjeev Sahoo and Women and Child Development Minister Anjali Behera.

To a query, Rout said the Congress had no role in the alleged gameplan to topple the Naveen government.

A senior party leader said besides interacting with leaders in groups, the chief minister held one-to-one meetings with party MLAs, including about 20 of those who had attended the meeting at the house of Mohapatra, a long-time strategist and adviser of ruling BJD.

"I had been called to Pyari babu's house. When I reached there I saw others. I was asked to sign on a paper and later I found that it was meant for obtaining consent of MLAs for making Mohapatra the BJD legislature party leader," claimed Sushant Singh, MLA from Bhatli.

(JPN/Agencies)

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