Pradeep Pattanayak

Despite Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s announcement and several strikes and agitations, the district status to the Padampur subdivision in Bargarh district is still hanging fire. It has now come to the fore that none other than the Odisha government's own minister Tukuni Sahu may have been the impediment. 

She herself let the cat out of the bag at a meeting of senior citizens organised in Titilagarh two days ago. 

While addressing the meeting, she said, “Had a district been announced, I would have been the first person to resign.  I had made up my mind that I would go straight to the Chief Minister to submit my resignation if Padampur was declared a district, ignoring Titilagarh. But the Chief Minister didn’t do that.” 

She had assured the people that Titilagarh would be at the top of the list of new districts. 

The Minister’s revelation has stirred up a hornet’s nest as it has created ripples in Padampur. 

When contacted, the coordinator of the Padampur Joint Action Committee, Ajit Satpathy said, “It is believed that the Chief Minister walks the talk. But in the case of Padampur, he didn’t do that. During the by-election, he had promised that Padampur would be made a district.” 

“At a meeting, Minister Tukuni Sahu said that she would have tendered her resignation if Padampur had been given a district status and not Titlagarh. She had also said that the Chief Minister had accepted her words,” he said. 

“Now we demand that the Chief Minister or his party should issue a white paper clarifying whether the district status announcement was their intention or just a false promise to the people,” he added. 

Meanwhile, the Opposition started cornering the BJD-led dispensation over Minister Tukuni Sahu’s statement. 

“The Chief Minister’s words have proven wrong. He has betrayed the Padampur people.  Minister Tukuni Sahu’s statement has given away the conspiracy,” said BJP’s Bargarh MP candidate Pradeep Purohit.
 
Padampur’s Congress leader Sheikh Muzaffar Hussain said, “Tukuni madam (Tukuni Sahu) has said she would resign. We expect Barsha Madam (Barsha Singh Bariha) also to prove her attachment with the district by returning her ticket.”

In her response, BJD leader of Titilagarh Gita Bishi said, “What she (Minister Tukuni Sahu ) meant to say was that she would have resigned if new districts had been created in Odisha and Titlagarh was ignored.”

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Notably, after the demise of Padampur MLA Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha, his daughter was fielded by the BJD in the by-poll. During that time, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced that Padampur would be made a district by December 2023. Following this, similar demands of district status were raised for as many as 25 places including Titilagarh, Kantabanji, Rourkela in Sundargarh, Bhubaneswar in Khordha, Nilagiri in Balasore and Dharmagarh in Kalahandi. 

The Minister’s statement may give the poll narrative a new direction in the upcoming elections.

(Reported by Abinash Nanda) 

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