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Mrunal Manmay Dash

As Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik makes plans for his foreign visit later this month which includes a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican, the political corridors are abuzz with speculations and allegations.

As per reports, Patnaik will attend an event organized by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome. On the occasion, the Chief Minister will share his experience on Odisha’s efforts, capabilities and success in transforming agriculture, food security and disaster mitigation in the state that have been exemplary for others.

Last year the State government had signed an MoU with the WFP to work on improving household nutritional security, aimed at reaching thousands of Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Odisha. The WFP had heaped praise on Odessa’s Millet Mission and Mission Shakti.

Earlier in February, Bishow Parajuli, World Food Programme Representative met Naveen Patnaik and invited him to visit Rome. While speaking to the reporters, Parajuli had said, “We would like the Chief Minister to share his vision of how he aims to transform the State. India has made a lot of progress particularly in the field of agriculture and Odisha is an important part of this progress.”

After that, the CM is scheduled to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican which has heated up the political corridor in Odisha. While the Congress has called it a minority appeasement policy, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has termed it a blatant disregard for Hindu sentiments.

BJP Spokesperson, Ramaranjan Baliarsingh said, “When the CM has never extended his interest in meeting the Shankaracharya in Puri, his meeting with the Pope thousands of KMs away reeks of ulterior motives which he will have to answer to the voters.”

Alleging vote politics, Congress MLA Suresh Routray said, “He has planned to meet the Pope only to beg for the Christian votes. It is minority appeasement at the best.”

However, the BJD has refuted all these allegations terming them as baseless. “Odisha has become an industrial hub these days and not only the country but the world has recognised his efforts to transform the State. It is the job of the opposition to criticise every move the CM makes. So let them make the noise.”

Not only Rome, Patnaik will attend an Investors’ Summit organised by the FICCI and the Indian Consulate at Dubai while returning from Rome.

Notably, this will be chief minister’s second foreign trip during his 22 years as Chief Minister of Odisha.

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