Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

After facing severe backlashes by BJP over the missing keys of Puri Srimandir's Ratna Bhandar, BJD tried to clarify about the controversial issue by giving newspaper advertisements on  Wednesday. However, the ruling party drew further criticisms from the servitors and historians for allegedly trying to divert the attention of people by evading the original questions. Meanwhile, Opposition BJP has targeted the ruling party over the issue again. 

As per reports, BJP's central leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, National President JP Nadda and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma have been launching scathing attacks on BJD over the sensitive issue during the saffron party's campaigns in Odisha for the ongoing 2024 General Elections.

Countering the allegations, BJD tried to clarify the matter by giving newspaper advertisements pertaining to the Ratna Bhandar today. However, the party has reportedly evaded all the important questions raised by countless Jagannath devotees like- When and under which circumstance, the keys of Ratna Bhandar got lost? Who made the duplicate keys and why? Are the costly ornaments secure? Why Justice Raghubir Das' report has not been made public so far?

Instead of answering these important questions, the party advertisement has only provided some basic information like- What is Ratna Bhandar? Where it is located? When it is opened and who is responsible for keeping the keys? Moreover, the ruling party has also taken a dig at the Opposition through the advertisement.

Servitors, historians slam govt

Meanwhile, servitors of Srimandir and historians in the State slammed the ruling party for trying to divert the attention of people from the controversial issue.

"The government has created a drama about the missing keys and construction of duplicate keys. It is only to hoodwink people. They have the original keys with them and you will see it when the Ratna Bhandar is opened after the Trinity moves to 'Adapa Mandapa'," said senior servitor Binayak Das Mohapatra.

"If the keys went missing, the lock of Ratna Bhandar should have been broken from day one. The government is not able to convince the people about the matter and they are only creating more and more confusion. The government might have come on the backfoot and given the advertisement as an eyewash. The government is answerable in the matter," said historian Anil Dhir.

As per reports, the Ratna Bhandar was last opened 42 years ago in 1978 and all the ornaments were enlisted then. Following huge controversies, a 17-member committee had gone to take stock of it again on April 4, 2018. However, it could not be opened as the keys were missing. Since then, the treasure trove of Srimandir has not been opened and the cracks developed on it have not been repaired despite demands by several devotees of Lord Jagannath.

BJP has made the sensitive matter as an election issue for the 2024 General Election and included it in their election manifesto. The party has announced to find the missing keys at any cost if BJP is voted to power.

BJP hits back

Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed the Odisha government over the issue again during BJP's campaign in Baripada today.

"The BJD government did the biggest fraud with Mahaprabhu’s Ratna Bhandar. The people across the globe want to know what happened to the keys of Ratna Bhandar? What happened to the investigation report and whose names are in it? Whatever the BJD is hiding, the BJP will expose all after forming government in Odisha," said Modi.

Meanwhile, the State unit of BJP also took a dig at the ruling party again over their advertisement on Ratna Bhandar allegedly meant to eyewash people.

"Everybody knows where the keys are kept. The party which has given the advertisement today must answer where the original keys have been lost. Why have not you submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court?" asked senior BJP leader Samir Mohanty.

In response to the allegations, BJD leader Subhasish Khuntia said, "The concerned commission will decide to open Ratna Bhandar. Who are you? The issue should not be politicised. If you want to do politics, you should serve the people."

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