The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) would probe the allegation of sexual harassment against former Speaker Maheswar Mohanty. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday announced, “The SHRC is the appropriate body to look into the allegations.”
The scandal has exposed fissures within the BJD, and proved that a third party was involved in the row between Speaker Maheswar Mohanty and Assembly marshal Gayatri Panda. In an interview to a private TV channel, Panda acknowledged that former minister Debasish Nayak tried to help her and she was quite distressed to learn that Nayak was dropped from the council of ministers. Investigators are now trying to find out whether Nayak helped Panda or instigated her to lodge an FIR against Mohanty.
Meanwhile, Naveen Patnaik’s numero uno status in the BJD has been firmly established. But a fierce battle rages among the staunch Naveen loyalists to fill the second slot’s place. The leaders in this race include works minister AU Singhdeo, Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra (a retired IAS officer who served as principal secretary to late chief minister Biju Patnaik from 1990-1995), Rajya Sabha member Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, sacked minister Debasish Nayak, energy minister SN Patro, former speaker Maheswar Mohanty and a few others. Mohapatra, because of his age and stature, is clearly the first among the equals. Naveen has been maintaining perfect balance among these leaders so that none can challenge him.
For the record, the BJD leadership says everything is hunky-dory within the party. BJD secretary Priyadarshi Mishra told HT, “There are no factions within the party. The party is cohesive and completely united. And the CM's decisions have been endorsed by all the leaders of the party.”