Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Gone are the misty days, this December has been quite hotter for the Naveen Patnaik - led BJD government, as all of a sudden, the ruling dispensation has to handle with lot of hot potatoes.

True to the adage, 'adversities come in hordes', Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik simply gets flummoxed at the pace of the controversies that haunted his government in a matter of only few days. What is considered as a body blow by observers is, the controversies have taken the sheen of CM Patnaik's 5T governance model.

COVID-19 And The 'PPE Scam'

Basking in the claims of 'successful' COVID-19 management, and to be fair, even an assessment report by the research division of SBI (State Bank of India) that counted Odisha among one of the 'well managed' COVID -19 states in the country, for the fact of recording lesser number of cases than estimated during the COVID peak period, stared at an ignominious scenario when the Lokayukta ordered a Vigilance enquiry into what is infamously known as PPE scam.

Why it seems a rude setback to the Naveen Patnaik government is, the senior IAS officers, who were charged with misappropriation, have stated before the Lokayukta in a sworn affidavit that all the necessary procurements to fight the COVID-19 had been duly cleared by the group of ministers. The implication of the statement is not less than any bombshell. It said ministers(or read as the government) had been in the saddle for all the purchases made.

"This is our victory. Congress party had been pointing at the irregularities from the day one. The party stood vindicated as Lokayukta has prima facie found some sort of discrepancies in the purchase of equipments to fight COVID-19 in the State, and therefore, had ordered a Vigilance inquiry into the equipment purchases," said an ebullient Niranjan Patnaik, Odisha Congress Party President.

Nayagarh Pari Murder And The Aftermath

However, it's the heat of Nayagarh fire that has rattled the Government badly. Because, notwithstanding the launch of 5T in Odisha Police with much fanfare post the big win in 2019 elections, where the objective was to empower the meek and the weak, the self-immolation bid by the harried parents of 5-year old Nayagarh girl Pari had put the 5T claims in police on flames.

The main grouse of the parents was Nayagarh Police worked with vested interest and quite unfairly in the case, and CM Naveen Patnaik had introduced 5T in Police exactly to weed such irritants out. The allegations of the Nayagarh couple proved true, when Odisha DGP acting on the inputs of SIT-led by Arun Bothra, only a few days ago, ordered suspension of the IIC Nayagarh and transferred the SDPO.

While such incidents cast shadow over the ruling BJD, they provide a platform for the opposition to go for the jugular of CM Naveen Patnaik. Both BJP and Congress jumped to the fray to milk the embarrassing issues to the hilt.

Main opposition party BJP after a slew of protests, has recently decided to take it on to a wider canvass. The saffron party will launch padayatra from December 14 in all the 147 assembly constituencies just for the cause of Justice for Pari.

“The State BJP will take out a huge procession on December 21 from Bhubaneswar to Jadupur and create awareness among people along the way about BJD government’s commissions and omissions,” said BJP leader Prithviraj Harichandan.

However, as per observers, this is a nehle pe dehla political strategy of the BJP. Seizing the opportunity, the saffron outfit will not only galvanise the cadres at the booth level but also via this sensitive issue will connect with the voters in all the 147 assembly constituencies. And Civic elections are only round the corner.

Meanwhile, the Odisha BJP's strategy got wings when the BJP in-charge for Odisha, D Puranderaswari, today met the parents of Pari at Jadupur village in Nayagarh , and later speaking to media had all her guns blazing at the Naveen Patnaik government.

Her poser was, “The chief minister has been saying that the 4.5 crore people of Odisha are his family and he would protect them. Is five-year-old girl ‘Pari’ not among those people?"

As if the storms are not enough, another thunder came the Naveen Patnaik's government way when Odisha Crime Branch's Special Task Force laid its hand on Jitendra Behera on the charges of gemstone smuggling. The STF on December 7 had seized gemstones worth Rs 1.5 crore from a house in Jagannath Complex in Rayagada town.

Behera's cameo photo-ops with many BJD biggies, including ST& SC development minister Jagannath Saraka, simply gave the meat to the opposition parties in the State. Both BJP and Congress had gone for the kill here. BJP demanded a CBI inquiry into the political patronage to the smugglers.

However, the ruling BJD has tried to keep its face straight. The party appears unfazed at the raging storms.

"Bereft of any issues, the opposition is simply latching on to mere allegations. Our government has ordered an impartial probe in all the cases. It's the Odisha Crime Branch's STF that have busted the gemstone smuggling in Rayagada, not opposition. This is a living instance of our government's 5T governance. My advice is wait with patience. Don't politicise every issue," retorted BJD veteran and Barchana MLA Amar Satapathy.

Other Stories