Rayagada: Factionalism has allegedly gripped the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Rayagada district due to an intense turf war between the party leaders. While BJD is talking about forging unity, the opposite is being seen in the party unit in Rayagada district. The party owes its growth and rise in the district to former Rajya Sabha MP N Bhaskar Rao.
However, some party leaders greedy for power and posts are trying to corner Rao and end his political career spanning over five decades. They are trying to make their way to political ascendancy by ending his political career, some party workers alleged. Speculations were rife after state Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Pramila Mallik who was here to attend the concluding ceremony of the district-level cultural festival ‘Chaiti Mahotsav’ took some time out of her busy schedule and met Rao at his Rayagada residence. It was learnt that Mallik, during the meet, talked to BJD’s organisational secretary Pranab Prakash Das over the phone where she invited Rao to come to Bhubaneswar for a meeting. The one-to-one meeting between Mallik and Rao has warmed up politics in the district this winter season.
Speculations are rife that there might be a major change in the district politics and Rao might be given a major charge by the party. When contacted, Rao termed it a courtesy visit by Mallik. State Water Resources Minister Tukuni Sahu, who was also in the town, was expected to meet Rao at his residence but failed to do so due to paucity of time. After the formation of BJD in 1997, the party managed to spread its influence all over the undivided Koraput district due to the skill, efficiency, and political acumen of Rao. Chatters are abuzz that attempts are being made to cut Rao to size and reduce the clout he holds in the party. Resentment is also brewing among the party workers over alleged neglect of former MP Jhina Hikka and former minister-cum-MLA Lalbihari Himrika.
On the other hand, opposition BJP and Congress are trying to gain from the factional feud plaguing the ruling party. Political observers claimed that BJD instead of fighting with other parties in elections is fighting with its own leader Rao. Party workers have alleged that the party by neglecting Rao lost one Assembly seat and one Lok Sabha seat in the 2019 elections. They even went on to say that some party leaders had conspired to defeat the party candidates in Rayagada Assembly seat and Koraput Lok Sabha seat in 2019 elections. It is alleged that some BJD leaders provided tacit support to independent candidate Makarand Muduli in the Rayagada Assembly seat and became the reason for the defeat of party candidate and former Minister Lalbihari Himrika.
Similarly, BJD foundation day was observed at Bissam Cuttack and Gunupur Assembly seats by neglecting Rao. The district-level leaders of the party invited the independent MLA to the programme but forgot to invite Rao who is a towering leader in the party. The factional feud has taken a toll on the party activities for which the district-level workers’ meet is not being held for the last few years. The party workers have expressed dissatisfaction that the opposition parties are taking advantage of this party feud. Efforts to contact BJD district president Sudhir Dash on his phone went in vain as he did not respond to the call.
On the other hand, Rao ruled out any factionalism in the party. He said he handled the duty that was assigned to him during the elections with all sincerity. He works wherever and whenever the party assigns him any responsibility, he added. BJD district observer Atanu Sabysachi Nayak also ruled out any factionalism in the party. He said there is only one leader in the party and all others are workers.
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