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Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Cooperation minister Damodar Rout has once again drawn criticism from his own party members for his remarks on the birth centenary celebrations of former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik at Paradip on March 5.

While Rout opined that members of other parties should also be allowed to participate in the centernary celebrations, the remark has not gone down well with the party members.

“To restrict Biju Babu within a party is a mark of disrespect towards the great statesman. Biju Babu belongs to the nation and Odisha and does not belong to any person or group,” said Rout.

The convenor of the Biju birth centenary committee, Bedprakash Agarwal, has refuted Rout's charge saying, “What Rout means can be clarified by him alone. I don’t understand how we are trying to restrict the celebrations within the party? It’s the hundredth birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik and we are trying to celebrate it in a big way.”

Rout has maintained that the centenary celebration should not be a BJD affair. For the celebrations in Paradip, which he himself is supervising, Rout has invited leader of opposition and Congress leader Narsingh Mishra, senior BJP leader Biswabhushan Harichandan and veteran CPM leader Sivaji Patnaik.

To make the celebrations at Paradip a success, Rout has made all preparations. The ‘Kalinga Rath’ a vehicle kiosk to spread Biju Babu’s legacy, is roaming in Jagatsinghpur and Kedrapara districts to invite people to attend the rally in Paradip in large numbers.

On the other hand, BJD has also organised a mega ceremony in Bhubaneswar to mark the centenary of Biju Patnaik. Though life-size posters of Biju Babu have been put up all over the city, Rout expressed ignorance about the arrangements in Bhubaneswar, further infuriating party members.

“I have no idea what arrangements have been made. As I have taken the responsibility of organising an event in Paradip, I am not able to involve myself in the party affairs in Bhubaneswar. Hence, I can’t and don’t want to comment on what arrangements have been made in Bhubaneswar,” said Rout.

Agarwal hit back with a vengeance saying; “Rout is a member of the Committee of which I am the convenor. Everyone has been informed through a letter and he must have received it,” said

However, Rout has found support from unlikely quarters in this unseemly fight with his party. Both Congress and BJP have supported Dama for his stance.

“Biju Patnaik is one of the greatest leaders of Odisha, Many organizations and forums have commemorated his contribution and I have participated in them. Hence, I have accepted Rout’s invitation to join the celebrations,” said Harichandan.

“If Biju Patnaik belongs to BJD, then doesn’t he belong to us? We have worked with him too. He belongs to everyone in Odisha and every party. In splashing his photo all over, the BJD is only indulging in politics,” said Congress leader Suresh Routray.

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