CM cannot shift riot responsibility : Harichandan

Bhubaneswar: Senior BJP leader and former minister B B Harichandan told the Justice S C Mohapatra inquiry commission on Saturday that he had requested Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to enhance the security for Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, whose killing in August 2008 sparked off the communal riots in Kandhamal.

Harichandan, who was the state law and revenue minister during the riot, said he had also asked Patnaik to extend central para military force operation in Kandhamal and hold cabinet meeting on the issue.

"The chief minister cannot shift the blame for Kandhamal riot in the name of collective responsibility of the council of ministers," Harichandan said this while deposing before the commission for the third consecutive day.

Harichandan was the second ex-minister to depose before the commission after the then food and supply minister Manmohan Samal.

Both Harichandan and Samal blamed Patnaik for `poor handling` of the riot situation which continued for about a month resulting in killing of at least 43 persons.

Harichandan had not filed any affidavit before the commission before he was summoned. The commission summoned Harichandan after the release of book `Faith Under Fire` by Archbishop Rapheal Cheenath.

Later Harichandan told reporters "I have requested Justice Mohapatra to summon the chief minister to know about certain facts which could not be answered by me."

Asked why he did not resign from the ministry if he was unhappy over the manner in which the chief minister handled the riot, Harichandan said "Patnaik had assured me and also the union government that the situation would be controlled soon and culprits involved in the killing of Saraswati would be arrested. Therefore, I waited for the action."

The BJP leader had yesterday blamed the state home department, which is held by the chief minister himself, for not activating the central paramilitary force during the riot.

As a result, the riot had spread, he had told the commission.

Meanwhile, special counsel for the state government, B K Patnaik told newsmen that though Harichandan had responded to the commission`s summons and submitted an affidavit before coming for deposition, he had not raised issues like the chief minister`s `inept` handling of the situation or his request to the government to extend operation by the central paramilitary force operation.

Asked whether he would summon the chief minister in view of the demands made by Harichandan, Justice Mohapatra said "I am examining his statements. If necessary, the commission may issue summon to the chief minister."