In a major blow to the Odisha Congress, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly and senior party leader Bhupinder Singh resigned to join the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) along with party MLA Anup Sai on Saturday.
More MLAs are likely to join the BJD within the next three days. Bhupinder had earlier repudiated talks about his resignation. Both leaders announced their decision to join the ruling party after a meeting with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Addressing a news conference here, Bhupinder said Naveen would be his leader after he joined the BJD. In the budget session in February, Bhupinder had described the Chief Minister as ‘corrupt and undemocratic’. When asked what changed his opinion of the Chief Minister, Bhupinder said: “I was playing the role of an Opposition leader.” The senior leader also avoided a question about whether he still demanded a CBI probe into the multi-crore mining scam in the state.
Bhupinder said he joined the BJD without any condition. To a query on whether he left the Congress after being assured a Lok Sabha ticket for the Kalahandi seat, he said: “I have made no such demand.”
He accused the party of being controlled by a coterie, which included Union Minister of state Srikant Jena and president of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) Jaydev Jena.
Bhupinder’s resignation letter addressed to party president Sonia Gandhi dated March 3 was released at a media conference. He said many senior leaders felt neglected in the party and were not taken into confidence.
Bhupinder said besides resigning from the primary membership of the Congress, he would also resign as an MLA. Sai claimed to have joined the BJD for the development of Brajarajnagar constituency.