Sambit Patra’s rally with Lord Jagannath’s idol sparks row

Bhubaneswar: Pictures of BJP’s Puri Lok Sabha candidate Sambit Patra carrying an idol of Lord Jagannath during a rally a few days ago has now stoked a controversy.

According to sources, after Patra was nominated as BJP candidate from Puri Lok Sabha constituency, the senior party leader had taken out a campaign rally during which he was seen holding an idol of Lord Jagannath.

The servitor community of the 12th century shrine condemned Patra’s act as an insult to the culture, religion and faith of Lord Jagannath.

“We have the festival of Rath Yatra which is dedicated for Lord Jagannath, but the way the BJP leader promoted the act of carrying the Lord in a car is a disgrace,” said senior servitor Rama Chandra Das Mohapatra.

However, Patra defended the charges levelled by the servitors and said that he only carried an idol of Lord Jagannath which was given to him by a supporter.

“A friend of mine gifted the idol of the Lord to me during my campaign and I carried it with ‘bhakti’. It is not at all an issue of politicization of the Lord Jagannath, but whoever presents me such an opportunity to carry the Lord, I will do so,” said Patra.

The ruling-BJD and Congress have voiced their protests against Patra as well.

Alleging model code of conduct violation by Patra, a four-member team of Odisha Congress today met the Chief Electoral Officer and demanded action against the BJP leader.

Congress leader Nishikanta Mishra said, “We have urged the EC to take strict legal action against Patra for playing with the religious sentiments of people and violating poll code.”

Similarly, the BJD lodged an FIR at Singhadwar Police Station and several party workers also staged a protest outside the Singhadwar of the temple.