January 25, 2020
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Breaching The Legacy's Fortress

Breaching The Legacy's Fortress
You could call this a half-way rebellion, but the going is not good for Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik. When Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi accepted the demand of the "rebel" Biju Janata Dal (BJD) for replacing parliamentary party leader Arjun Charan Sethi with Prasanna Acharya last week, he had very little choice. Given that six out of the 10 BJD MPs in the lower house wanted Sethi out and Acharya in.

However, the BJD hasn’t split officially, as the rebels want to continue in the NDA. Besides, they would have to split the party at the state level in order to oust Patnaik from chief ministership. This is important because its ultimate implication lies in delegitimising Naveen Patnaik’s claim to the Biju Patnaik legacy. That, however, is proving to be a tall order.

While Sethi’s non-performance in the lower house is being cited as the main reason for demanding his removal, the move is basically aimed against Patnaik. The mild-mannered, soft-spoken CM’s predilection for ruthlessly crushing dissidence in his party has angered many. He had suspended three of the six rebel MPs last month. Spearheading the dissident campaign is Patnaik’s arch-rival, Rajya Sabha MP Dilip Ray.

A lot, however, depends on the BJD and how much oxygen it gives the rebels. The contentious Nalco issue will also have a direct bearing on Patnaik’s future. If the disinvestment happens, it’ll be a blow to Patnaik, who has been strongly opposing it. And any loss of face for the chief minister will strengthen the hands of the rebels.

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