It was a move timed to perfection. When Union mines minister and president of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Naveen Patnaik, gave marching orders to his arch rival in the party, Bijay Mohapatra, he did it with the cold calculation of a seasoned politician. Mohapatra, who was the BJDs political affairs committee (pac) chairman, was expelled from the party and his ticket withdrawn on the last day for filing of nominations to the assembly elections. In one stroke, Patnaik decimated his bete noire and sent out a clear message to his party that he is the undisputed head of the BJD.
Coming as it did on the eve of elections, the expulsion of the powerful pac chief sent ripples down the party as stunned leaders and workers were caught off guard. Mohapatra who enjoys considerable support in the BJD had no inkling of the move. What is ironical is that Mohapatra himself played a key role in ticket distribution. And when his own ticket to the Patkura assembly seat which he has held ever since 1981 was withdrawn at the last moment and he was replaced with a novice, his humiliation was complete. Naveen Patnaik had ensured that Mohapatra could not even contest as an independent since there was no time left to marshal the requisite numbers to propose his nomination.