The Midnight Thunder Is Not Over
This is politics, where anything is possible. Role reversals are often surprising and political opportunism is taken as morale in the realm of political exigency.
No politician is free from the pangs of uncertainty is what the recent political turmoil in Odisha has proved beyond any doubt.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's decade old political honeymoon with ex-bureaucrat turned politician Pyari Mohan Mohapatra got over after a midnight shock that the BJD chief would have hardly foreseen. This, coming from a man who had acted as an enviable godfather shielding him against all odds for almost a decade.
But it happened and a sweating Naveen in his hotel room in London had to accept the improbable as truth. That must have been the most unseen face of Naveen!
Stung by Naveen's indifference for the last six months, Pyari's patience, perhaps, had given up and he, reportedly, designed the plan to topple the Patnaik regime overnight.
The warming up was well organised and was on the swell heading towards an unprecedented political event in the history of the state, but for the media.
It was, no doubt, a sparsely expected backlash from a man who had virtually hand-led Naveen through the labyrinth of politics that the latter was not familiar with. When someone was abroad and learnt that his citadel back home was being shaken by his once most trusted political mentor, he must have felt the pricks of a stabbing glacial wind for a while in this summer.
Even political analysts were, for once, taken aback by the magnitude of Mohapatra's vengeance, going to the extent of collecting signatures on a paper to be submitted to the Governor seeking to unseat Patnaik the next day.
It was past midnight, some people fell in line, gave their signatures. Some did it willingly and some unwillingly, while some, as they confided later on, signed just in good faith unaware of the design behind. A load of lies now anyone cannot buy. Mohapatra's run-up to real power started in the afternoon and the media smelt the rot. As the closed-door conspiracy went lingering, from a low key coverage, the media boosted its intensity and by past midnight nothing remained secret.
Within two hours Mohapatra's game plan suffered the setback as many of his so-called loyalists could not turn up under the gaze of high voltage media presence.
The next day, an estranged Mohapatra ate the humble pie and tried to dub the five-hour long drama as a mere grievance meet. The tempo of the deadly coup diminished and Patnaik and his foot soldiers conceded that had the media not been there, Patnaik would have got up from the sleep as an ex-chief minister. A silent yet abortive coup was nipped in the bud.
Not surprising that neither Patnaik nor any of his minions uttered a word of thanks for the guys from the media and not even a make-believe gesture of emotion from Patnaik for the media.
Then Patnaik made an unscheduled return from London to a grand albeit orchestrated muscle flexing by the BJD leaders from the Bhubaneswar airport to Patnaik's residence causing untold hardship to passengers, to and from the airport. A pathetic show of disregard for people's problems. Many failed to board their flights while many families were seen dragging their baggage on foot from the airport all the way to their destinations even kilometres away.
Then, politics within the BJD hotted up in the background of a sulking Mohapatra doing many tricks to keep Naveen scared. Like the battle of 'Morodino' in Russia, Mohapatra, of course, won the battle but lost the war. Today, his house might have been deserted by his followers, but 29th May was the beginning of a rebellion that has surely taken the root.
Now what appears more than apparent is that the numbers have become the paramount need for Naveen before being torpedoed by any other salvo from his political bête noire. From the day of his arrival from London, Patnaik's personal residence has virtually turned into a kind of camp where BJD leaders can be seen swarming. Vigil is being kept on each of them to ensure that none of the legislators try to lean back at the fall guy again.
Not enough, Patnaik has started to make it doubly sure that his support base does not suffer from any further crack. So, he has got down to poaching MLAs from other parties to be on the safer side. The latest chatter in the political grapevine is that Mohapatra has also some aces up his sleeve and might venture to breach Naveen's moral territory by exposing some inner secrets to embarrass the chief minister. So not happy with 107 members in his kitty, after four NCP legislators joined the BJD, Patnaik is out to make some dents in other parties like the BJP and Congress.
All that abundantly speaks that Patnaik has made a hasty use of his discretions after the foiled ‘coup’. He could have waited before taking on Mohapatra or dismissing some ministers who were lesser beings in the entire game. Was he not aware that some of his very senior Cabinet ministers were also the all-weather devotees of Mohapatra?
Patnaik should have rather demonstrated political maturity in responding to someone's vengeance or 'betrayal'. At such moments what is more prudent is the composure to gather one's wit and not allow a ‘dog eat dog’ situation where one can run the risk of pushing the boundary for no reason.
Once assured of the numbers Patnaik could have freed himself from the pedantic exactitudes and handled the situation with a bit of equanimity in his back room. That did not happen. It was instead a pot boiler kind of backlash when Patnaik chose to chew the enemy's vengeance hot and then heads started rolling.
Naveen was literally driven by an euphoria on one side and the phobia on the other aired through Pyari Mohan's tirades. The sloganeering outside was a pressing reason, perhaps, to shoot him to the orbit like a monarch and what happened later is history.
He should have demonstrated dignity in his grief, which he undid through his revengeful actions. That was not commensurate to the stature of a chief minister.
Patnaik is now in a situation where he suspects his own shadow. It is quite natural. A man who was wedded to an unquestioned authority, an authority that was clinically detached from day to day realities in the party, and benignly plagued by complacency and over confidence, such a shock surely could rattle anyone. Sanity in politics demands that regardless of your following or popularity, one must know how to keep his head on the shoulders.
Now that Mohapatra is out of Patnaik's brigade, it is time Naveen learnt how it feels to get on driver's seat. The development in BJD has in fact opened the floodgates. And the ones, except a few, now swarm around Patnaik like bees.
It is a very difficult task ahead for Naveen. It would be puerile on his part to accept anyone from any party which might trigger yet another web of dissent among his present leaders which Patnaik may not be able to break. Waking up from a restorative idleness of solitude, now Patnaik should learn how to immunize his position against all the contagion heaped over the years and that which, obviously, cannot be possible by his old habits of alienation from others within the party.
Patnaik's love with Mohapatra had to turn illicit one day and it did. But he should learn the art of spending less time in greeting people to his party than helping them into his confidence, which he never did all those years.
Pyari Mohan has set the ball rolling and 2014 may not be the same for the BJD when Naveen may witness blood thirsty rebels swarming from the political swamps.