The state government’s programme of bringing devotees from different parts of the state to Puri to give them an opportunity to see the Parikrama project courted controversy from the first day itself.
On the first day of the programme today, people from Ganjam, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Cuttack and Kendrapara reached Puri and the administration took them around the temple so that they could see the transformation under the Srimandir Parikrama project.
The administration also gifted a packet of ‘khaja’and ‘nirmalya’ to each of the devotees on their way back.
But the programme was marred by allegations of undue favours being shown to the ruling party people for the sponsored visits.
“We had offered rice, betel nuts etc to Arpan Rath. When it came to the Puri visit, we were sidelined. It has hurt us deeply. We will teach them (the BJD) a lesson at the right time,” rued Kalpana Mallick, a resident of Kendrapara district.
A miffed resident of Bhanjanagar, Harikrushna Sahu alleged, "The government is treating this as their party programme. From NACs, Panchayats and blocks, their party people have been taken. Common people were sidelined.”
Meanwhile, the state units of the BJP and the Congress have sharpened their attacks on the BJD-led government.
Sources said, out of Rs 156 crore earmarked for the promotion of the Srimandir Parikrama project, Rs 20 crore will be spent on bringing people to Puri. Every day around 10,000 people will go around the project. This will continue till February 22.
While the BJP alleged the government is doing so to increase its vote bank, the Congress alleged that the BJD is using this programme to sweep the Parikrama Project irregularities under the carpet.
“It is vote bank politics. The government is bringing people to Puri with the hope that they will vote for them in the coming elections. They are spending the government money for their party,” said BJP MLA Subash Panigrahi.
Taking a swipe at the BJD, Congress spokesperson Nishikant Mishra said, “The people of the state have now understood that the government has committed massive irregularities in the name of Parikrama Prakalpa. To hide them, the government has started such a programme spending lakhs of money.”
On the other hand, the BJD said there should be no room for politics in Lord Jagannath’s work. “Everything is going on with the blessings of Lord Jagannath. Devotees don’t have any party affiliation,” said BJD MLA Pranab Balabantaray.