Vikash Sharma

Why was Odisha Health Minister Naba Das shot dead? The exact motive behind the cold-blooded murder still remains a mystery even though five days have passed since the incident that shook the state. The eerie silence of senior Odisha Police officials over Naba Das’ killing has now given way to several new theories that are being discussed by all and sundry.

Was the state Health Minister, and senior BJD leader killed over some top-level business rivalry? Was the accused, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), Gopal Krushna Das a mere pawn in the hands of some influential group?

Among the various possible theories surrounding the murder of Naba Das, it is the business rivalry which seems sound as of now. Apart from his politics, it is believed that Naba Das was too influential in the coal transportation business.

It is alleged that some dispute over coal transportation could be one of the major reasons for which Naba Das may have been eliminated. Not only coal transportation, but Naba Das was also in hotel business and mineral transportation.

As per the affidavit submitted by Naba Das during the 2019 elections, his family members were involved in excavation of ash and transportation works in Vedanta, Hindalco, and coal transportation from Aditya Birla company. Similarly, Naba Das had also other business operations in Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, and other parts, particularly in the mining belts in the state.

As far as coal transportation is concerned, Naba Das and his associates were actively involved. It is said that Naba Das with his clout, created significant entry barriers for other influential persons in the coal transportation business. Under such circumstances, it is suspected that some other influential person might have used ASI Gopal Das to eliminate Naba Das with an eye to capture the coal transportation business.

“We have been saying that the ASI is just a pawn and the state government should hand over the probe to the CBI,” said a local resident.

Another local resident said, “There is certainly a big conspiracy behind Naba Das murder. The government should find the real culprit who called the shots from behind.” The Opposition parties are demanding a thorough investigation to unravel the mystery behind Naba Das' murder.

Odisha BJP general secretary, Lekhashree Samantsinghar said, “Everything is clearly evident and everybody is talking about the theories. Crime Branch has been roped in to manage things. Only a CBI probe can unravel the mystery.”

Congress MLA Suresh Routray said, “There is a big business conspiracy with several influential businessmen involved in mining, coal, and other activities. The real culprit should be booked after a detailed investigation.”

Responding to Opposition parties, senior BJD leader Sashi Bhusan Behera said, “At a time when the tears in the eyes of late Naba Das' family are yet to dry, such kind of allegations by the Opposition and politicization is totally unjustified.”

Naba Das was elected to the Odisha Assembly thrice from 2009 to 2019 including two times on Congress ticket and once on BJD (2019) ticket. Naba Das’ political career reached its peak after he held the portfolio of the State Health and Family Welfare department.

It is speculated that there could be some conspiracy behind Naba Das’ murder as he had unprecedented clout in western Odisha. The accused ASI Gopal Krushna Das, who shot Naba Das, was posted in Jharsuguda district for long. His pictures alongside Naba Das are now going viral on various social media platforms.

Had Gopal wished to kill Naba Das, he could have done it much earlier. Why he chose January 29 to fire at Naba Das? Such questions have deepened the mystery behind the high-profile assassination.

(Reported by Bhagirathi Sahu and Harihar Chand)