Not long ago, he was the party’s face in Delhi. For years, he represented the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in almost every discussion on national TV. But today, suspended MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda is persona non grata for the party he claims to have helped found. With the industrialist-turned-politician falling foul of party supremo and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, the wrath of both the party and the government has fallen on him like a ton of bricks—literally so last May, when he was assaulted with eggs, bricks and stones by BJD members at Mahanga, in his Lok Sabha constituency of Kendrapara, while inaugurating a drinking water project built with his MPLAD funds. Panda lost no time accusing “an officer on the third floor” (the CM’s office) of orchestrating the attack. That’s when things came to a head, though tense undercurrents had been evident since the 2014 general elections.
Panda claims he has been on physiotherapy for 10 months now due to the shoulder injury he suffered in the Mahanga attack, and there hasn’t been a single occasion since when he could visit his constituency without facing protest by BJD workers. “In these months, not once has the party chief called to ask how I am. And that hurts,” says Panda. On January 24, the simmering tensions culminated in his suspension for ‘anti-party’ activities.