Aborted coup bid: Patnaik sacks another minister

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik dismissed Housing and Urban Development Minister Sarda Prasad Nayak, three days after sacking two ministers, for his alleged role in dissidence activities.

Bhubaneswar: Striking hard at those who allegedly plotted an unsuccessful coup against him, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday sacked a third minister amid speculation that more heads are likely to roll soon.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Sarada Prasad Nayak was shown the door three days after Patnaik dismissed two other ministers Anjali Behera and Sanjeev Sahu for allegedly conspiring to topple his government.

"I have forwarded a letter requesting the Governor of Odisha to dismiss Sarda Prasad Nayak, minister of state for housing and urban development department," Patnaik told reporters.

Tightening the screws on the dissidents, Patnaik had suspended Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra and two legislators Pravat Biswal and Bibhuti Balabantray from the BJD after the aborted coup came to light on May 29 when at least 33 MLAs and three ministers (Nayak, Behera and Sahu) met at Mohapatra`s residence.

Mohapatra refuted the charge that a conspiracy to remove Patnaik was hatched at his residence. "There was no conspiracy about any coup against the CM," he said.

The dissident leader dared the Chief Minister to order a CBI probe into all corruption charges against him (Mohapatra).

BJD has a strength of 104 MLAs in the 147-member Assembly.

The Chief Minister, who was away in London, had cut short his visit in the wake of the dissidents` threat.

Justifying Monnday`s action, Patnaik said the charges against Nayak were "more serious" than the "shadow of corruption".

Patnaik said he had requested the Governor to allow him to retain the Housing and Urban Development Department while giving the excise department to state Finance Minister Prafulla Ghadai.

Nayak was holding the excise department as an additional charge after A U Singhdeo resigned from the Cabinet in the wake of the hooch tragedy in February.

While Behera and Sahu were dismissed on June 1, no action had then been taken against Nayak, though he had attended the meeting of dissidents.

"Patnaik was in search of concrete evidence on Nayak`s alleged involvement in the coup bid," a senior minister said adding Keonjhar MLA Subarna Nayak had yesterday alleged that the minister had organised a meeting to raise fund to the tune of Rs 200 crore for toppling the government.

Patnaik after his return from London on May 31, had consulted MLAs, ministers, MPs and senior party leaders before taking action against the ministers the next day.

BJD sources said action against other rebels will follow soon.

Energy minister Atanu S Nayak was also said to be on the firing line as he had been accused of being one of the trusted aides of Mohapatra.

The May 29 meeting at Mohapatra`s house was said to have been organised as part of an exercise by the dissidents in the BJD in an alleged attempt to topple the Naveen Patnaik government in the absence of the chief minister.

The legislators who attended the meeting were allegedly asked to sign on a paper seeking to make Mohapatra the BJD legislature party leader, some MLAs present at the gathering had later claimed.