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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Patnaik’s rift with MP Baijayant Panda out in the open over closure of Odisha mines

The MP has increasingly been isolated ever since he called for ‘introspection’ within the party.

india Updated: May 31, 2017 17:07 IST

BJD MP Baijayant Jay Panda.
BJD MP Baijayant Jay Panda.(File Photo)

Eggs thrown at Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda during the inauguration of a drinking water project in Odisha’s Mahanga on Tuesday have triggered fresh speculation about his deteriorating ties with party chief and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

The articulate and widely networked MP has increasingly been isolated ever since he called for ‘introspection’ within the party following the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the principal opposition to the ruling BJD in the panchayat elections held in February.

Though the BJD led by Patnaik won 474 of the 853 Zilla Parishad seats, its tally was far lower than in the 2012 elections. The increase in BJP’s tally – from 36 to 297 – led to soul searching within the BJD, with some leaders such as Panda calling for an in-depth review.

Some insiders have alluded that chief minister Patnaik is getting out of touch, ceding ground to certain influential bureaucrats who have come to call the shots in the administration.

Tuesday’s fracas in Mahanga that falls within Panda’s parliamentary constituency followed a ‘war of words’ between Panda and another party MP. Amid rumours that Panda could be ‘cozying’ up to the BJP, supporters of a state minister chose to violently oppose his presence at the function.

Panda had been stripped off the position of BJD’s parliamentary party spokesman three weeks ago.

“Naveen Patnaik is surely but steadily trying to clip his wings,” said Bhubaneswar-based political commentator Rabi Das.

The theory has further gained ground after the state Pollution Control Board (OPCB) revoked the consent for Indian Metal and Ferro Alloys (IMFA) to operate two chromite mines in Sukinda and Mahagiri of Jajpur district. Panda is the vice-chairman of IMFA, the country’s largest fully-integrated producer of ferroalloys.

The revocation on the grounds that IMFA has been found wanting in maintaining the approach road pockmarked with pot holes and the absence of wheel-washing facility for trucks has triggered allegation of a political witch-hunt.

The Pollution Control Board served the company with the notice on March 24 and ordered the closure of the two mines on April 10.

What has raised eyebrows, however, is the extension granted to state-run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for operating its Kaliapani chromite mine despite having failed to build an upgraded effluent treatment plan. The board issued a show-cause notice to the OMC on March 31, but gave it time till June 30.

OPCB member secretary Debidutta Biswal denied that officials were going after IMFA. “You cannot compare apples and oranges. IMFA officials have admitted their mistakes. They have also gone to High Court and the matter is sub-judice,” he said.

First Published: May 31, 2017 17:06 IST

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