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Many Bureaucrats Tried, But Only Pyari Babu Excelled In Politics

21 March 2017


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Bhubaneswar: How many IAS officers wish to join mainstream politics after retirement and navigate the choppy waters of politics? The answer is, of course, very less. Isn’t it?

If at all any one of the genre dips in, how many of them come off with flying colours in the adventurous and arduous expedition.

A glaring case in point is 1979 Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer Dr Jatish Chandra Mohanty.

The former top bureaucrat of the then undivided Andhra Pradesh opted for a voluntary retirement from the plum post and chequered career in a bid to try his luck in politics. Thus, the sagacious son of soil on August 23, 2007 floated a new political party 'Samruddha Odisha' ahead of the 2009 general elections. The party had even fielded seven candidates in the Lok Sabha elections, but to no avail.

He aimed at eradicating poverty from Odisha in five years if his party came to power in the assembly election.

Dr Mohanty had even claimed that he might not be in next election if he failed to utilise the Central funds in the first year of power and they would also not fight election if they failed in five years to eradicate poverty from Odisha.

Perhaps, he failed to strike the right chord among his fellow electorate and now 'Samruddha Odisha' and its founder Dr Mohanty have apparently relegated into oblivion.

But, as there is always an exception in every field, Odisha had got one and he is called Pyari Mohan Mohapatra – once BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik’s eyes and ears and the brain behind blockbuster Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha.

He came, he saw, he conquered. This what Pyarimohan Mohapatra, born to a modest family in Talcher of Angul district, did throughout his life both as a bureaucrat and politician.

Mohapatra, a political strategist, was often referred to as ‘Chanakya’ of Odisha politics for making the BJD an unstoppable political force in the State, had learnt the nitty-gritty of Odisha polity when he was the principal secretary to former CM Biju Patnaik between 1990 and 1995.

Mohapatra, a 1963-batch IAS officer, exercised super power after Naveen Patnaik started taking notes from the former bureaucrat as Patnaik was alien to politics. The former IAS officer was believed to be the brain behind throwing Bijoy Mohapatra, a founding member of BJD, from the party smelling the latter could be a challenger to Naveen after the Assembly polls in 2000.

Over time, Mohapatra, gained confidence of Naveen by teaching him ABCD of Odisha politics and acquired a larger-than-life image in the party with bureaucrats queuing up before his house at 111 Sahid Nagar in Bhubaneswar for orders on some policy issues.

“What Amit Shah is to (Narendra) Modi, Pyari babu was to Naveen. He changed the DNA of BJD and made it a politically well-oiled winning machine,” said political analyst Rabi Das.

Senior politician from Odisha Bijoy Mohapatra in his comments said, "Be it an administrator or a leader, coming out successful depends on his dedication. He (Pyari Babu) whatever has been entrusted with has done with utmost sincerity."

Mohapatra, had surprised many when he single-handedly convinced Naveen to go solo by dumping Bharatiya Janata Party, an ally of BJD just before the 2009 assembly polls citing the national party might bring name to BJD in the wake of Kandhamal riots in 2008.

The BJD won 103 seats in the 147-member House in 2009 Assembly polls and it helped to lift Mohapatra’s image to a new high.

As every success story has an end, the same finally came for Mohapatra, who was considered the second powerful man after Naveen in the State.

May 29, 2012, the date associated with Odisha politics will never forget as Mohapatra allegedly tried to engineer a coup in the party while Naveen was in London on his first overseas trip after becoming CM.

Knowing about the alleged coup attempt, Naveen got furious and suspended Mohapatra and a few others from the party.

“He is a beimaan (traitor) and backstabber,” said Naveen, who was once calling “Pyari uncle”

Now, the most trusted man of Naveen had turned his biggest enemy.

Mohapatra swore revenge promising that he would reveal explosive details about Naveen when the time comes.

Mohapatra formed the Odisha Jana Morcha in 2013, but in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls but it proved to be a damp squib.

And, with this, the man who was once calling the shots of Odisha politics receded to further political oblivion last year when his Rajya Sabha tenure ended.

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Bijoy Mohapatra, Senior Politician, Odisha

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Suresh Routray, Senior Congress Leader