In a jolt to the BJP in Odisha, two senior leaders--Dilip Roy and Bijoy Mohapatra--on Friday resigned from the party, saying they cannot be 'treated as furniture' and 'showpieces'.
The move by the two BJP leaders came ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and state Assembly elections in 2019.
Besides sending a joint resignation letter to BJP president Amit Shah, Roy, who represents Rourkela constituency in the state Assembly, also resigned as an MLA.
The development sparked speculation that the two leaders may return to the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), of which both were founding members. While Mohapatra was expelled from the BJD in 2000, Roy was thrown out two years later.
Reacting to the development, BJP state unit president Basant Panda said the party would not be affected by the resignation.
Roy, once considered by many as the foster son of former chief minister Biju Patnaik, said he called on Assembly Speaker Pradip Amat Friday morning and tendered his resignation from the membership of the House.
The Speaker said he has accepted the resignation.
Roy is yet to spell his future political move but said he has decided not to contest the Assembly elections from Rourkela.
The resignation comes as bad news for the BJP which is making a determined bid to capture power in Odisha.
Stating they cannot be 'treated as furniture' in the party, Roy and Mahapatra said, "As self-respecting politicians with decades of service to Odisha, we refuse to continue in the party as showpieces ... For us, the interest of the state is supreme. We have never ever compromised our self-respect or the interest of the state for any post, power or ticket."
Mohapatra said the political situation in the state is fluid at present and he would take a decision about the future course of action after discussions with Roy.
A senior BJD leader, who did not want to be named, said it was too early to draw conclusions. Any decision on inducting people into the party would be taken by Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik, he added.
Roy, a hotelier-turned-politician who considered Biju Patnaik as his political mentor, served as industries minister in Odisha when the legendary leader was the chief minister between 1990 and 1995.
His affinity to the late leader can be gauged from the fact that Biju Patnaik spent the last years of his life with him. Mohapatra also happened to be an influential minister during the period.
As a parliamentarian, Roy held several ministerial portfolios. After the death of Biju Patnaik, Roy, along with other leaders like Mohapatra, played a major role in the formation of BJD.
The two of late turned critics of the BJP-led government at the Centre, alleging delay in construction of a second bridge over the Brahmani river, establishment of a super-speciality hospital in Rourkela and lack of job opportunities for local youths in the Paradip oil refinery.
Mohapatra told reporters that the interest of the state was important and their future course would be announced after about a fortnight.
Stating that joining the BJP was a wrong decision, he said he undertook several party activities during the initial years in the saffron party. However, involvement in party activities declined gradually, he said, adding their suggestions and views were ignored by the party and they were sidelined.
In their resignation letter to Shah, Roy and Mahapatra said, "We regret to state that despite repeated efforts in apprising you on the sorry state of affairs of the party here, neither you nor any senior central party leader bothered to consult, review or take corrective measures."
"Be it the Mahanadi water issue or the unfulfilled promised of a second bridge over the Brahmani river, the super-speciality hospital at Rourkela or the dreams of lakhs of jobs for Odia youth which we sold at Paradip during the inauguration of the Oil Refinery – nothing, absolutely nothing materialised," it said.
The letter claimed that the people of Odisha were "disillusioned."
"Several leaders in the party here shared our concerns, but remain silent fearing denial of tickets. You would agree that such silence is a bad sign for any democratic party," it said.
(With inputs from agencies.)