A Janata Dal offshoot

Published : Apr 23, 2004 00:00 IST

THE germ of the idea of launching a regional party first grew in the minds of a group of legislators of the erstwhile Janata Dal in Orissa when Dal generalissimo Biju Patnaik was not keeping good health after being out of power. However, the idea was dropped after Biju Patnaik scotched it.

On his death, the situation changed. Naveen Patnaik won the byelection in Aska, the Lok Sabha seat held by his father, in 1997. However, the party lost two successive Assembly byelections in the same year, and that fuelled the idea of forming a regional party.

By this time, a small group of Janata Dal legislators had started looking towards the BJP for their political survival. As they were in a minority, they could not defect to the BJP; they subsequently came round to the idea of floating a regional party.

Feelers were sent to the BJP central leadership and the party's general secretary, Pramod Mahajan, made a trip to Bhubaneswar. Mahajan wanted the regional outfit to be formed before the BJP's National Executive meeting in Bhubaneswar, which was scheduled for December 1997. Some leaders opposed this idea.

A few days later, the Janata Dal Legislature Party in the State Assembly split and the regional party was born on December 26, 1997, with Naveen Patnaik as its president. The party was promptly named after Biju Patnaik.

The five leaders who played prominent roles in the formation of the party were Dilip Ray, Bijay Mohapatra, Prasanna Acharya, Ananga Uday Singh Deo and Naveen Patnaik. Ironically, Mohapatra and Ray are now out of the BJD and are sworn enemies of Naveen Patnaik.

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