May 29: A Coup That Was Not

Subhransu Panda
Bhubaneswar, May 29, 2018:


I would have become CM in 2009 itself when over 85 MLAs were with me, once said late Pyari Mohan Mohapatra after being ousted from Biju Janata Dal (BJD) for allegedly plotting a coup coup to dislodge Naveen Patnaik as CM.

However later Mohapatra, once Naveen’s confidant, regretted his relationship with BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik. He said that he failed to recognize Naveen Patnaik during their 12 years long association though Mohapatra used to spend 14 to 15 hours daily with him.

He also admitted that politically the revolt against the CM was a wrong strategy as people misunderstood him. He was termed as a Backstabber, though his intention was to bring an active Chief-ministership to Odisha.

Pyari, a career bureaucrat, came into Naveen’s life soon after the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) formed in in 1997 after the death of later’s father, Biju Patnaik. Naveen, having spent his life far away from Odisha, did not know anyone when he came to the state. Neither he has any experience in politics.

From early 2000, Pyari Mohan scripted each the moves of Naveen, including advising him on day-to-day potitics and governance.

Naveen didn’t know Odisha‘s native tongue, Odia. Being a political greenhorn the CM depended on “uncle” Mohapatra. He also advised his bureaucrats and ministers to often consult Pyari Babu on policy matters and politics.

Soon the retired bureaucrat acquired a larger-than-life image or an image of super Chief Minister within the party as well as in bureaucracy.

Offen he was dubbed as Chanakya of Odisha politics. Now what Amit Shah is to Modi, Pyari Mohan was to Naveen till 2012.

When the BJPBJD divorce in 2009 was dubbed as a suicidal move, Pyari Mohapatra helped the BJD win 109 of the 147 seats in Odisha assembly.

However post-2009 polls, the bond betweenNaveen and Pyari showed signs of cracks as Mohapatra tried to assert himself as the most important leader of the party. Naveen asked his bureaucrats not to report to Pyari anymore. The frigidity in the relationship was evident in 2012 Panchayat polls when Naveen campaigned alone. Soon after he announced the names of three Rajya Sabha candidates without consulting Pyari Mohapatra. Later Naveen announced his party’s support for former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma as presidential candidate.

While Naveen was away in Europe, Pyari Mohapatra fell from grace on May 29, 2012 when he allegedly plotted a coup in Biju Janata Dal. The alleged coup fell through as only 33 of the 104 MLAs of the party extended their support to Pyari. It’s believed that more MLA’sincluding few minister were about to join the midnight operation lead by Pyari Babu on 29th May. But as the news broke in media, they refrained themselves from the coup and jumped to the anti-Pyari group without any second thought.

The failed coup scared Naveen and soon he returned from London. Landing in Odisha, Naveen termed Pyari as a Trator and Backstabber. Mohapatra and few of his supporters were suspended from the party. Later Mohapatra was ousted.

Pyari Mohan Mohapatra’s house at plot no-A/111, Saheed Nagar, looked as deserted as any other since his exit from the party in 2012.

He died on March 19, 2017 in a Mumbai hospital at the age of 77.

It was a chance. But the alleged coup by the Chanakya of Odisha politics was never fulfilled due to his own associates. Many young MLAs, groomed by Pyari babu, betrayed him in last minutes. And later those young MLAs became Naveen’s confident and got berths in his cabinet.

It’s also discussed in political discourses that, the unhappy Chanakya was in search of another Chandragupta to replace the current one. But he was not succeeded.


Subhransu Panda is an author and journalist. He can be reached at editor@odishastory.com and 9338655845.

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About the Author

Subhransu Panda
Subhransu Panda, founder and editor of www.odishastory.com, is an author and journalist. After working 10 years as a journalist in Odisha's leading media houses, both print and electronics, he started Odisha Story in 2016. He has 6 Odia books to his credit including 2 novels. He is also heading Odisha's leading publishing house PEN IN Books.