Paradip: The arrest of Congress leader Bapi Sarkehl in connection with the murder of Seaways Shipping Company GM Mahendra Swain has created ripple in the political circle with top party leaders giving mixed statements.
After the arrest of Sarkhel, who had contested 2014 poll unsuccessfully from Paradip Assembly constituency on Congress ticket, hundreds of supporters today took to the streets at Kujang near here in Jagatsinghpur district protesting police action against him.
Similarly,over hundred workers under the banner of the Paradip-Erasama Industrial Development Council staged cease-work agitation here. Dubbing Sarkhel’s arrest injustice, the activists demanded his unconditional release. Members of the Congress SC Cell also staged road blockade on the Cuttack-Paradip road. In view of this, eight platoons of police force were deployed to avoid any untoward situation.
A few hours after a group of activists from party's student and youth wings, who are considered to be from anti-Bapi camp, staged similar agitation demanding his ouster from Congress. However, PCC president Prasad Harichandan, who maintained a studied silence over the issue, simply remarked, “Law will take its own course.”
Similarly, senior Congress leader Suresh Routray termed the arrest illegal. “If he is innocent in the case, he will be absolved by the court. We have also been victimised many times of political vendetta, but later acquitted by court. Same would happen in the case of Bapi,” he added.
But, former PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik said the arrest may malign party image. "If Sarkhel is involved in the murder case, it would be a matter of grave concern", he said.
“It is unfortunate if Sarkhel is framed in the murder case falsely with political motives. Involvement of political leaders in this case will have bad repercussions on the party,” Patnaik added.
Notably, police arrested Sarkhel on Friday in connection with the murder of a senior manager of Seaways shipping company at Paradip and produced before the Kujang JMFC, where his bail plea was rejected. He was sent to Samagola Jail of Kujanga and later shifted to Ali Pingala sub-jail in Jagatsinghpur district on security ground.
Meanwhile, the key accused in the sensational crime, Rakesh Chubey, has been remanded to three-day police custody for interrogation today.