Former Union minister Dilip Ray, who resigned from the BJP last year, met ruling BJD president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, sparking speculation that he may re-join the regional party. According to sources, Ray reached Naveen Niwas, Patnaik's residence, on Saturday evening, and held an hour-long discussion with the BJD chief.
Other senior BJD leaders were also present during the meeting, they said. Ray, one of the founder members of the BJD, was ousted from the party following differences of opinion with Patnaik in early 2000.
He had subsequently joined the BJP. Ray was elected to Odisha Assembly from Rourkela assembly segment in 2014, as a BJP candidate, and had played a vital role in the victory of party's Sundergarh Lok Sabha candidate.Jual Oram, who later became a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet.
Ray is believed to be a staunch loyalist of former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik. Ray and another veteran non-Congress leader Bijay Mohapatra had resigned from the BJP last year, alleging that they were ignored by the state party leadership in Odisha.
A number of senior BJD leaders, including MPs, have favoured Ray's re-entry into the ruling party. However, there was no word from Patnaik on whether Ray and Bijay Mohapatra would join the regional party.
(With inputs from agencies.)