Don’t become Sonia Gandhi’s caged parrot: Prasanna to Srikant

Bhubaneswar: The war of words over special category status for Odisha turned bitter on Saturday with ruling BJD asking Union Minister Srikant Jena not to become "caged parrot of Sonia Gandhi" and the latter accusing Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of trying to fool people in the name of the demand which was rejected by previous NDA government.

"Do not become caged parrot of Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi. You (Jena) are elected from Odisha and therefore work for the state's interest instead," state Finance Minister and BJD vice president Prasanna Acharya told reporters.

Acharya was reacting to Jena's reported statement that Odisha's prospect of getting special category status was diminished due to faulty data and contradictory statistics on the number of poor presented by BJD government.

Jena had said portrayal of a robust picture on Odisha economy and substantial reduction of poverty worked against the demand.

Raising question on whether Jena represented Odisha in the Lok Sabha, Acharya said, "I fail to understand to which state Jena belonged."

Jena on the other hand hit out at the chief minister accusing him of trying to fool the people of Odisha in the name of special category state status.

"You can fool some people for some time but you cannot fool all the people for all time," the senior Congress leader said in a letter to Patnaik.

Reminding the chief minister of the yardstick on which the then NDA government, in which Patnaik was a Cabinet minister, had rejected Odisha's demand for special category status, Jena said planning commission has now failed to accord the special status to the state as per the same criteria.

Referring to the formation of a sub-committee by the Centre for change of criteria for grant of special category status, the Union minister said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already thanked Union Finance minister P Chidambaram for having taken this positive step.

"Unfortunately, instead of thanking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, BJD is indulging in burning their effigies which is condemnable. It will also act against greater interest of Odisha," Jena said.

Asking BJD to refrain from Centre bashing and effigy burning, the Union minister said the UPA government is all set to pave way for granting of special category status to Odisha and Bihar by changing the criteria for this, a measure the previous NDA government failed to undertake.

Meanwhile, BJD continued its signature campaign supporting the special category status for Odisha. "We will hand over signature of one crore people to President of India in support of the special category status," Acharya said.