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Kasturi Ray

Unwittingly or intentionally, Minister Damodar Rout often gets stuck up in the foot-in-mouth syndrome. If not always, the septuagenarian-veteran in the field, is frequently in news for speaking his mind, even if that makes him vulnerable to flaks.

On Wednesday, reacting to Agriculture Minister’s statement on CM Naveen Patnaik  considering waiving off farm loan, Rout stirred a hornet’s nest stating that  ‘’farmers do not utilise the farm loan for the right purposes but for marrying off daughters and consuming liquor.’’ However, after protests  from the BJP and the CM refuting  it as ‘incorrect’, Rout was fast enough to change his statement on Thursday.

He bowed to pressure or did a damage control is for anyone to guess but he mended by saying his intention was not to point at the farmers but the land owners. ‘’I have always demanded loans for farmers, particularly share croppers. I meant the loan is being handed over to the land owners and not the actual farmers who work in the fields,’’ he justified.

Earlier too, Rout has made a volte face on many of his remarks. He also faults at many public functions while detailing data relating to the state or otherwise. But that does not make him rein his tongue. He wears a  ‘care- a-damn’ corsage with non chalance like none other in the party and that lands him in trouble many a time.

It is very difficult to run a democratic government under bureaucratic influence

He had once been ousted from the ministry in 2011 for stating that there cannot be a second power centre within the party pointing at MP late Pyarimohan Mohapatra. And when rumours of his expulsion from the party followed, he was unfazed.  Similarly, in 2016, he was embroiled in a controversy for his statements on Cuttack Mayor Anita Behera’s resignation. He faced lot of criticism for making adverse remarks against the Assembly speaker Niranjan Pujari in 2014 and in 2013, the NCSC Chairman had tagged him a habitual offender for his casteist remarks while he was the Health and Family Welfare Minister.

Also read: Odisha gets 1st green climate fund project to ensure food security

A few days back, his statement on the Assembly floor, that he ceases to be the  ‘most efficient’ minister because ‘’it is very difficult to run a ‘democratic government under bureaucratic influence,’’ shook the entire system. Though this is a common perception among all sections of people, Rout was the one to spell it out to a filled House.

Since, for whatever Rout says as a reaction becomes a headline, people instigate him to speak out even if he is least associated with the subject.  And he obliges as his age, experience and stature make the two-time Paradip MLA and four time Erasama legislator, the outspoken man he is, irrespective of being appreciated, criticised or ridiculed. Like him or not, he is among the counted leaders in the BJD, who dares to make a noise in the party, that prefers to maintain silence, just like the party chief.


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