By Dr.Sasmit Patra, Bhubaneswar: There is an old adage, “Vengeance tastes best when taken cold.” If you have followed the CBI cases on Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of late YSR Reddy, then you would probably know the reason why. The Congress continues to treat this adage with respect. But unfortunately Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik prefers his scotch and vengeance warm. This explains the undue rush in suspending his old time ‘Uncle’ and advisor, BJD MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra from the party.
Let us deconstruct this decision of Naveen and its timing with a little focus firstly on the context and background of Naveen’s decision. On hearing about the impeding coup by Pyari, Naveen would have collapsed. Gathering his wits he would have spoken to Pyari Mohan from London, allegedly proclaiming telephonically that no one is a permanent advisor or guru. Pat came the reply from the Machiavellian Pyari, nothing is permanent, not even the Chief Minister’s post. Can you imagine the look on Naveen’s face? Honestly, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes at that moment. Bitten by anxiety, perspiration, growing helplessness, he would have sounded out Gita Mehta, Prem Patnaik, A.U. Singh Deo, Damodar Rout and Baijayant Panda with an SOS that the Government is going under. Imagine the trauma, anger, blind fury and white hatred. Now cut to his arrival at the Bhubaneswar airport on 31st May, 2012 evening. Thousands of BJD supporters cheering him, many of them “coached” to shout slogans demanding the head of Pyari Mohan on a plate or simply put his dismissal from the party. Waving BJD flags, familiar smiling faces, flashes of the press and media; Naveen would have told himself, “Old buddy you survived.” Naveen went emotional seeing the manufactured circus of the BJD that evening. Naveen was angry in London, emotional with what he saw in Bhubaneswar. Psychologically speaking, when a person becomes emotional or angry, it leads to an increased supply of adrenalin in the blood stream. I am sure Naveen being very human, adrenalin in good supply was flowing through him on both occasions. The difficulty with adrenalin rush is that it blurs cognitive reasoning, decision-making and cold blooded manipulations. In other words adrenalin is a politicians’ Viagra; moderation is exhilarating, overdose is fatal. It warms the body and forces the mind to take active steps. Thus, on 31st night Naveen at Naveen Niwas was edging for action on Pyari like a swashbuckling Zorro and act he did. On 1st June, 2012 he announced the suspension of Pyari Mohan from the portals of the state secretariat. Probably he was afraid of using the BJD party office; the thought of Pyari’s ghost reappearing from within its ramparts being an unsettling thought. Thus the first factor that we can attribute Naveen’s decision to is adrenalin.
Lets focus on the second factor, Trojan Horses. Though the phrase comes from a Greek war story, but in contemporary politics could be referred to people who are bodily with Naveen but their soul lies with Pyari Mohan. Mind you, there were nine vacant slots on the sheet of support being prepared by Pyari Mohan with the help of the 33 legislators present with him on that fateful Tuesday evening at A-111 Shaheed Nagar. Who were those nine Trojan horses? They are assumed to be ministers. Lets for a moment add up Sarada Nayak and Atanu Sabyasachi, excluding Sanjib Sahu and Anjali Behera for having signed, then at least there are still seven ministers who are enjoying tea at Naveen Niwas right now but have their bread buttered by Pyari Mohan. There is a possibility of having about 15-20 MLA Trojan horses in the BJD at this very moment, potentially much more. BJD leader Damodar Rout, a proven Trojan horse on earlier occasions, was quick to spot this gaping hole in Naveen’s armour. He convinced Naveen and his few good men on 31st night that Pyari could strike at the midnight hour with these Trojan horses. Therefore a silent, clinical severing of the umbilical cord between Naveen Patnaik and Pyari Mohan Mohapatra was the order of the day. For the baby to live, the mother has to be severed off from it. For Naveen to live, Pyari has to be severed off. This fearful logic, backed by Naveen’s inordinate insecurity and shadow-boxing attitude, led to him taking the rushed decision of suspending Pyari Mohan from the BJD. Supplement the Trojan horses with the adrenalin rush and you have a heady concoction.
The third aspect refers to masquerading lilliputs. I was amused to see some BJD legislators like Debasish Samantray and Pratap Jena, who till yesterday were falling over each other to touch Pyari Mohan’s feet were berating Pyari publicly, denouncing him, castigating him, judging him and also passing their execution decisions on Pyari. There are more than 60 first time MLAs from the BJD and potentially many of them used to touch Pyari Babu’s feet reverently just as they used to touch Naveen’s toes. But when they found that the rain had changed direction, they also changed the orientation of their umbrellas, from Pyari Mohan to Naveen, from conspiring for a piece of Naveen Patnaik to shouting hoarse for lynching Pyari Mohan. I also had the privilege of once lunching with BJD MLA from Kandhamal, Debendra Kanhar and the manner in which he was waxing eloquent about his “Pyari Sir”, I almost reached for a napkin to wipe a wet tear. Pyari to him was slightly lesser divine power than God that day. I watched him with a smirk on my face a few days back on television when he said how innocent tribal MLAs like him were hoodwinked by Pyari into signing the letter of support. I almost thought of shipping a carton of Farex, Cerelac, Baby Diapers and a Pram to him. These characters are the masquerading Lilliputs. They do not owe their emergence to local strength. They owe their legislator positions to the charisma of Naveen Patnaik and his energetic campaign along with the resourceful strategy of Pyari Mohan, an expert in marshalling and deploying resources on the election battlefield backed by superior number crunching and excellent understanding of human weaknesses and how to play them to his advantage. A person, whose end justified his means, even as Naveen drew applause for twelve years, he silently basked in Saheed Nagar, content on playing kingmaker. These masquerading Lilliputs are the bench strength for Naveen Patnaik today. It remains to be seen whether Naveen gets stuck in the yarns spun by them or is able to hold his own. Only this time around there wouldn’t be a Pyari to cut through the yarns.
Naveen could have held his own against the adrenalin rush, fear of Trojan horses and slimy masquerading lilliputs. Naveen Patnaik played the ace of cards too soon. He should have played smaller cards and collected more hands and heads of lesser players and slowly scaled his card game up to ministers. This would have given him enough time to size up Trojan horses and also would have brought him to terms with the yarns of the masquerading lilliputs. Biding his time, Naveen could have built up cases on mining barons like Ahluwalia as he did a couple of days back, increased pressure on Pyari’s core team through “sam, dam, dand” (Counselling, Pay-offs, police and vigilance action) and when the King Pyari would have been rendered limbless, with absolute dexterity would have wiped him off. By decapitating Pyari, Naveen has closed the game, rather too prematurely. The Damocles sword hanging on Pyari longer would have led him to commit a mistake too many. Naveen did not draw Pyari out, he played into his hands. Naveen has drawn first blood, Pyari is a true political shylock, and he will cut a rather sizeable pound of flesh which Naveen might find to his horror too painful for him to handle.
[Dr.Sasmit Patra has an active interest in Odisha politics He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ]