Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 12:
Amid speculation about possible revocation of his suspension from the party, senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Pravat Tripathy today met Odisha Chief Minister and party chief Naveen Patnaik for the first time in the last four months after his release from the Jharpada jail here last week.
The Banki MLA, however, claimed it was just a ‘courtesy call’ and his suspension from the party did not figure in the meeting.
“I am a suspended member. I don’t hesitate to accept this. But I didn’t go to discuss my suspension with the Chief Minister. It did not figure in my talks with him,” Tripathy told reporters after the meeting.
“It was a courtesy call. I came to the Assembly yesterday after our months, but could not meet the Chief Minister because he was out of the state. That is why I came to meet him today. We didn’t discuss anything political. As soon as he saw me, he enquired about my health condition,” he said.
“He (Naveen) is the leader of the party..our party and the president of the BJD. I met him on these grounds,” Tripathy said.
Significantly, the Banki strongman said he has the ‘manpower’ to serve his locality in the current situation. This is being interpreted as a subtle show of strength to impress upon the party leadership that his continued alienation could have cost for the party.
It may be noted that Tripathy’s supporters had created havoc at the CBI office here on October 31, 2014, after his arrest for alleged links with AT group, preventing him from being taken away for nearly four hours.
They had followed it up with protests in Banki, Cuttack and here the next day, only to back off after being ticked off by the state leadership.
But the fact that the BJD supremo, who chooses who he meets very carefully, agreed to meet Tripathy is being seen as a sign that the ice is beginning to melt.
Notably, Naveen has steadfastly refused to meet senior leader Prafulla Ghadai after he was expelled from the party.
BJD Vice President and state Excise Minister Damodar Rout had given a hint about Tripathy’s gradual rehabilitation yesterday when he came out strongly in support of him. “He is a good friend. No one can stop me from meeting him. I don’t believe in his involvement in any scam,” Rout had said. The two leaders were seen walking the corridors of assembly holding hands.