Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik on Friday expelled Rajya Sabha member and dissident leader Pyarimohan Mohapatra - the first serious challenger from within BJD to his 12-year uninterrupted reign - from the party for "anti-party" activities after holding a meeting of the party's state executive.
Patnaik also expelled Mohapatra loyalist and BJD general secretary Jageswar Babu.
"At the meeting of the state executive, a decision has been taken to expel, remove Pyarimohan Mohapatra and Jagneswar Babu from the party," Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
Reacting to his expulsion, Mohapatra said he expected it to happen. "I will challenge the expulsion and take the matter to 27 lakh workers of the BJD and people of Odisha at large," he said.
Mohapatra said 20 lakh out of the 27 lakh party workers are not happy with Patnaik's style of functioning which is "undemocratic".
Mohapatra, a former bureaucrat who advised the chief minister, was seen to be extremely powerful for most of Patnaik's more than a decade long rule.
However, about six months back Mohapatra, along with two MLAs and several ministers, was suspended from the BJD after he allegedly plotted a coup against the chief minister on May 29.
Denying the charge of having tried to dethrone the chief minister and challenging his suspension, Mohapatra floated Odisha Jana Morcha (OJM), an outfit within the BJD, on October 19 in a view to establishing "inner democracy" in the party.
On October 28, he threw down the gauntlet at Patnaik by holding an impressive rally attracting thousands of disgruntled party workers.