Berhampur: Ahead of simultaneous polls in Ganjam district on April 18, ruling-BJD and BJP today engaged in a war of words accusing each other of patronising criminals.

Targeting BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan held Patnaik responsible for the rise in criminal activities in the district. Confidantes of the chief minister such as BJD’s Bhanjanagar MLA candidate Bikram Keshari Arukh and Gopalpur MLA candidate Pradeep Panigrahi are involved in serious criminal activities and chit fund scam in the State, he alleged.

“Serious criminal charges were levelled against Arukh. Similalrly, Panigrahi is involved in chit fund scam. Notorious criminals and liquor mafia in Berhampur is being supported by one person and he is none other than Naveen Patnaik. The image of Ganjam district is tarnished because of him (Patnaik),” slammed Pradhan.

Hitting back at the Union Minister, BJD spokesperson Sulochana Das asked Pradhan to first explain who has allotted petrol pump to gangster Tito and sheltered Chhatrapur NAC Councillor Laxmidutta murder accused in a guest house.

“Before issuing such statements, the Union Minister (Pradhan) should give clarification on who has given shelter to Laxmidutta murder accused in a guest house. People of Odisha also want to know who are involved in the Bijepur poll violence; which Union Minister was having links with Dhalasamanta brothers and who has allotted petrol pump to Tito,” asked Das.

At the BJP’s Vijay Sankalp Samabesh in Bonai of Sundergarh, Pradhan said the chief minister is losing ground fast and, therefore, has got fearful.

“In the land of Lord Jagannath, Patnaik fears of losing the polls as he is now realising that he is standing on a quicksand. He is playing gimmicks to hide his inefficiency. After winning we will decide who will be our CM.” said Pradhan.

Upping the ante on Naveen, Pradhan further asked, “Who is running the CM office in the State government? Mining mafia Prabhakaran and his Tamil Nadu officials are running the affairs of the State government. Patnaik has handed over the interest of people of Odisha to corrupt Tamil people. This time Odia people will give a befitting reply.”

Later in the day, Pradhan released a video targeting the CM further and holding him responsible for the rise in alleged irregularities in the State.

“Naveen Patnaik doesn’t have the courage to face people of Odisha. There is lack of water, electricity and shortage of doctors and unavailability of teachers in schools. When BJD MLAs go to campaign, people are asking questions and the CM has no answer to it.”

“The CM has been creating barriers between people and PM Modi. In case you (Patnaik) visit Bargarh, kindly visit Brunda Sahu and say you love the people of Odisha,” Pradhan said.

He further alleged Patnaik’s eyes are blind folded and he is surrounded by duplicate Odias, chit fund looters and mining mafia. “The more you (Naveen) speak against PM Modi, people will repose faith in him proportionately,” Pradhan said.

Comments from BJD on Pradhan’s fresh allegations could not be obtained.