Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: The Opposition tag might have slipped out of Congress' hands in Odisha, but even with the bunch of nine MLAs it has now, the party is leaving no stone unturned to put the ruling-BJD in the backfoot during the House proceedings.

After staging a walkout in the first session of the 16th Odisha Assembly over Leader of Opposition Row, the Congress on Day 2, accused BJD chief and CM Naveen Patnaik of being hand in glove with the saffron party over the party's support to the candidature of BJP nominee Ashwini Vaishnaw for upcoming Rajya Sabha bypoll from Odisha. They further demanded a statement from the CM over Ashwini's alleged involvement in mining and land allotment scams.

Raising the issue during the Zero Hour today, Congress legislature party leader Narasingha Mishra said, "Despite his (Vaishnaw's) involvement in scams, the BJD gifted him a Rajya Sabha seat. A committee set up to investigate the land allotment under the discretionary quota found that Vaishnaw was a beneficiary and the Vigilance was inquiring into it. Will CM Naveen Patnaik justify before the House that Vigilance has acquitted Vaishnaw?"

Prior to the elections, BJP had promised to punish all mining scamsters, but instead of sending them to jail, they are gifting them Rajya Sabha seats, Mishra stated.

The former LoP further claimed that if Speaker permits, he has enough evidence and can submit documents to prove the former bureaucrat's involvement in the mining scam.

Responding to this, BJD leader Debi Mishra said, "It was a gesture extended by CM after PM Modi urged him to support the BJP nominee. Congress should not play dirty politics in this. As if their past is corruptionless."

"Why did Dr Manmohan Singh stand from Assam? Why was Vasudeva Panicker nominated to Rajya Sabha from Odisha then?" he questioned.

LoP Pradipta Nayak said, "They (BJD) might have nominated Vaishnaw eyeing funds from the Centre for the development of Odisha. Why is Congress poking its nose in this matter?"

Meanwhile, refuting Congress' allegations, Vaishnaw demanded an investigation into the cases and said he would share relevant details post the Rajya Sabha bypolls. "I don't have anything to hide. I'll come and meet you but let the election process be over. Those who have levelled the allegations should probe. I would not have asked to initiate a probe if the allegations were true even to a small extent," Vaishnaw responded to media query.