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BJD, BJP exchange words over change in I-Day parade venue, format

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government’s decision to change the venue and format of the state-level Independence Day function this year has triggered a sparring between opposition BJP and the ruling BJD.

The state government has decided to hold the function at the IDCO Exhibition ground this time, instead of the old venue at Mahatma Gandhi Marg.

Besides, the conventional mass march past, including those by the police, school and college students and several groups of women and children, has also been cancelled and only a limited number of contingents will take part in it.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal opposition in the state, has raised questions on changing the venue as well as the format of the function.

“Why have such changes been made?,” state BJP general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan asked, while questioning the rationale for abandoning the 72-year-old tradition.

He further said, “Is it a fact that the government cancelled the mass parade because the chief minister is unable to stand for a long time to take the salute? If true, it is extremely unfortunate.”

Ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) spokesman and Rajya Sabha MP Sasmit Patra countered the BJP allegations and said, “In a democracy, it is always expected that the states will follow the national model, especially while celebrating occasions such as Independence Day and Republic Day. Republic Day is parade-based and Independence Day is speech-based.”

“On Republic Day, the president takes the salute from the armed forces and other contingents while no such mass march past is held on Independence Day, when the prime minister unfurls the tricolour at the historic Red Fort and delivers a speech,” he added.

In Odisha, a parade by a large number of contingents used to take place on both Republic Day and Independence Day.

“From this year, Odisha will observe a speech-based format by the chief minister on Independence Day as done at the national level,” Patra said.

Justifying the state government’s decision to change the Independence Day celebration venue, the BJD leader said since this year was being observed as the 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi, the government chose the exhibition ground, where besides the state-level Independence day function, a mega exhibition on Gandhiji would also be organised.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Satyajit Mohanty informed that four troupes — the Territorial Army, the Telangana Police, one of the Central Armed Police Forces and the Odisha Special Armed Police — will participate in the parade this year.

The new venue can accommodate around 20,000 spectators, a police official said, adding that the exhibition ground has large vacant spaces for parking of vehicles.

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