Amid raging talk of a coup in chief minister Naveen Patnaik's absence, the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha witnessed frenetic political claims and counter-claims on Wednesday, even as a key player alleged a threat to his life from goons hired by a party MLA.
A meeting of more than 30 BJD MLAs and three ministers at party strongman and Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra's residence here on Tuesday had triggered talk of an imminent revolt.
Patnaik, who is scheduled to return on Thursday after an eight-day visit to Britain, his maiden trip abroad after becoming CM in 2000, was not amused. "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," he had told PTI in London late Tuesday.
Fighting hard to dispel the buzz that he had flexed his muscles to send Patnaik a message, Mohapatra, a former bureaucrat, said what the CM was quoted as saying was false.
"Had I wanted to become the chief minister, I could have tried long ago," said Mohapatra, who is seen to be the hand that guided Patnaik when he clipped the wings of several mass leaders including former union minister Dilip Ray.
Mohapatra, however, said the party had become complacent after the massive mandate - 104 seats in the 147-member assembly - in 2009 and the MLAs had come to him to air their grievances, some of it against the arrogant senior bureaucracy.
He also alleged that a party MLA — whom he did not name — had hired a Kolkata-based gangster to kill him.
In a counter to Mohapatra's meet, BJD leaders held a show of loyalty at Naveen Niwas, the CM's house. More than 80 party MLAs including some who had met Mohapatra turned up. "There is no threat to the party or Patnaik's leadership," said finance minister Prafulla Ghadei.