Bhubaneswar, Dec 19: A record fourth consecutive win in assembly polls failed to retain the upbeat mood in ruling BJD as CBI tightened the noose around party leaders in the multi-crore chitfund scam that rocked Odisha in 2014, arming a marginalised Opposition with political ammunition.
Despite the landslide victory, BJD leaders seemed to be encountering sleepless nights as Opposition Congress and BJP sought Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's removal after CBI arrested at least three party stalwarts including a sitting MP and MLA.
However, the first half of the year was inspiring for an upbeat Biju Janata Dal. Untouched by the Narendra Modi wave and anti-incumbency factor, the Patnaik-led party bagged 117 of 147 Assembly seats as Congress and BJP were made to bite the dust with wins in only in 16 and 10 segments respectively.
The 2014 poll results showed BJD was adding to its seat numbers by each passing elections. It won 103 seats in 2009. BJD's show in Lok Sabha also improved substantially as it won 20 of the state's 21 parliamentary seats.
But the joy of victory was shortlived as things turned difficult for the state government after CBI began its probe into ponzi scheme scam in which thousands of poor investors were duped of their hard-earned money.
BJD had to step on a thorny path with hitherto inert Opposition turning hyper-active and mounting a scathing attack on the chief minister. Their offensive intensified after the arrest of BJD Lok Sabha MP Ramachandra Hansda and MLA Prabhat Tripathy by CBI in chitgate case.
Many others were also grilled by the central agency in the ponzi scheme scam. Worries for Patnaik got compounded when CBI summoned his close aide and party member Saroj Sahoo and interrogated him in connection with the chitfund scam, seen by Opposition as a move that apparently brought under scanner Naveen Niwas, the chief minister's residence here.
The grilling of Sahoo prompted Congress and BJP to demand resignation of Patnaik and probe by CBI into his possible role in chitfund activities. As Congress stalwart and leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra put it, CBI should interrogate the chief minister who ought to step down in order to pave way for a free, fair and impartial probe into the scam.
Speaking in similar vein, senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra claimed the chief minister had virtually acted as a 'brand ambassador' of a chitfund company and attended its function despite warning by the central government about the activities of the tainted firm.
Though Patnaik claimed that neither the government nor BJD was in anyway involved in chitfund scam and suspended the arrested party MP and MLA describing their role as their own individual matters, Opposition recalled how BJD had all along opposed CBI probe into ponzi scheme scandal.