Ration card row: Anita Behera quits as CMC Mayor, Corporator

Cuttack: Bowing to pressure from various political paties over her name figuring in the list of beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) Mayor Anita Behera today tendered her resignation both as Mayor and as a corporator.

She announced her resignation at a press meet in the presence of Cuttack’s three MLAs – Prabhat Biswal, Debasis Samantray and Chandrasarathi Behera – here this evening.

“I resigned on my own in order to protect the iamge of the party and its chief Naveen Patnaik though I am innocent. The incident is unfortunate. My name had figured in the list inadvertently,” Anita told newsmen here.

BJD supported her move in this regard.”She admitted that it was a mistake and resigned to save the party’s image,” Cuttack-Barabati MLA Debasis Samantray said.

Soon after Behera announced her resignation, an embarrassed government cracked the whip on officials, suspending CMC community officer Arghya Pratap Mohanty and teacher of Municipality high school Saroj Pratap.

That was not all. In a video conferencing with collectors, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reiterated his earlier directive to them to revisit the NFSA beneficary list and correct irregularities, Food and Consumer Affairs minister Sanjay Dasburma revealed.

BJP welcomed Behera’s resignation. “We welcome the decision. But she should have resigned earlier,” party leader Nayan Mohanty said.

Meanwhile, Congress termed Behera’s ouster a ‘forced’ resignation. “She could have done so earlier on moral grounds. She was compelled to quit the post,” Cuttack Nagar Congress President Muhammed Moqim said, adding a criminal case should be registered against her.

The entire episode exposed a nexus between BJD leaders and government officials in manipulation of NFSA beneficiary list at the cost of the deserving poor, the Congress leader pointed out. “Many other leaders of the ruling party have found place in the beneficiary list while the real beneficiaries have been excluded,” Moqim said.

Earlier in the day, both Congress and BJP staged protests in the city demanding strict action against erring Mayor. Cuttack Nagar Congress also lodged a written complaint against her at Purighat police station.

Terming the inclusion of the Mayor’s name in the NFSA list as blatant violation of the Food Security Act, Congress activists had urged the police to initiate action against the first citizen of Cuttack without any delay.

Likewise, Hundreds of BJP workers took out a rally from Gouri Shankar park and staged a protest in front of the CMC office demanding the resignation of the mayor.

Earlier on Monday, corporators had created a ruckus over the issue at a meeting of CMC. The protesting corporators demanded a probe and stern action against the mayor.

Though Behera had claimed that she did not know how her name got into the list, there were not many takers for her claim.

The issue has caused a major embarrassment for the ruling BJD, besides raising questions about the reliability of the process of enlisting beneficiaries under the centrally sponsored scheme.

Meanwhile, CMC commissioner suspended two officials-CMC community Officer Arghya Pratap Mohanty and Municipality High School teacher Saroj Pratap- for including Mayor and her well-to-do family memers name in the list.