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Bhubaneswar: While campaigning for their respective party candidates in the Panchayat polls in Odisha, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Odisha's Higher Education minister Pradeep Panigrahi today accused each other of fraud and corruption.

Panigrahi accused Pradhan of having the record of being a "coal thief" before 2000, Pradhan raised question on the Odisha Minister's alleged involvement in the multi-crore chitfund scam.

"He (Pradhan) is raising chit fund issue. Let him see his own background. The year 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 would show him his real picture. Then there was a report against him of being a coal thief," Panigrahi told reporters during panchayat election campaign in Ganjam district.

Justifying his allegation against Pradhan, the Odisha Minister said, "I recall this happened during the Vajpayee government. Pradhan resolved the matter with help of his father Debendra Prahan who was a Union Minister then."

Accepting Panigrahi's challenge, Pradhan said: "I am ready for any kind of inquiry. You have DGP, Home department.

Prove the allegation and send me to jail."

Pradhan, however, said that Panigrahi cannot escape charges against him of being allegedly involved in the chit fund scam.

"Let him speak in public that he (Panigrahi) is not involved in chit fund scam," Pradhan said adding that the people involved in looting poor people through chit fund cannot escape.

Earlier in the day, while addressing three public meetings in Puri district, Pradhan raised question on the deposit of Rs 750 crore in Jan Dhan account of poor people in Odisha.

"I suspect that these money have been raised by ruling BJD leaders from chit fund scam and illegal mining activities," he said.

Seeking vote for the BJP candidates contesting in the three-tier panchayat elections, Pradhan alleged that the BJD government had been trying to take credit out of the welfare schemes of the Modi government.

"In cheap rice scheme, the Centre contributes Rs 29 per kg while people give Rs 1 a kg. The state government's contribution is only Rs 2 per kg while the BJD claims that the cheap rice is available for the state government," Pradhan told the people.

Pradhan alleged that the beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) are being selected on political line. "While rich people close to BJD MLAs get the subsidised food grain, the real poor are denied rice and wheat," the Union Minister said.

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