No let up in BJD war of words despite CM’s gag order

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Bhubaneswar: A day after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reportedly warned his ministerial colleagues soon after a cabinet meeting at the State Secretariat here on Tuesday against giving media statements on issues affecting BJD’s interests, senior leaders of the ruling party were involved in a war of words on Wednesday.

Commenting on BJD spokesperson Sashibhusan Behera’s media statement on what transpired at the Cabinet meeting, Excise minister Damodar Rout said, “How does Sashibhusan, who is not a member of the cabinet, know what was discussed in the Cabinet meeting? As per my knowledge, the chief minister did not warn anyone. Those who are telling such things have a negative attitude.”

Rout went on to assert that if asked about the party, he would definitely comment.

Flatly denying reports of a gag order served by the Chief Minister, Rout said; “Nobody has warned me about anything. Those who are saying such things are dishonest. Whoever has told such things does not have right to make such statements. In fact, they are breaking party discipline.”

Interestingly. while Rout was in a belligerent mood, Behera, whose remarks set off the talk about a gag order, was surprisingly defensive when asked for a reaction on the Excise minister’s comment. “All that I said was Cabinet Minsters are answerable to the Chief Minister. What was wrong in what I told the media?” was his rather tame reply.

When pressed to react to Dama’s statements, Behera said, “The minister is akin to my elder brother and I respect him a lot.”

Agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy, who was present in the Cabinet meeting, said “In a bullock cart, there is no mention whether it is an elder or a junior bullock. Everything is working fine.”

On the Chief Minister’s reprimand, the Agriculture minister stated, “The Chief Minister has said only one thing: All the details should be given out only by party spokespersons.”

Clearing the air on talks about the Chief Minister’s warning, BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb said, “Some leaders, who are making statements in media in the name of personal views, were asked to desist from doing so. However, if they want to speak on any controversial topic, they can do so with either permission from the high command or after a discussion with the party. I believe everyone will obey the party discipline.”

Notably, the Chief Minister reportedly reprimanded the Cabinet ministers present at the meeting on Tuesday about the latest media statements of some party leaders and asked the ministers to mind their own business. Prior to this, the bureaucrats were reportedly asked to leave the meeting hall.

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