The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Judeo cloud on Naveen

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 17: Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik has come under suspicion in the wake of the video CD that apparently shows Dilip Singh Judeo accepting cash to facilitate mining deals.

The CD shows Natwar Rateria, the personal assistant of the Union minister of state for environment who resigned today, as saying Patnaik can be persuaded to do anything.

“Orissa mein... apna kaafi command hai... Nau hazaar crore ki relief Naveen Patnaik ko apne mantralay ke project se… uss se kuch bhi karva sakte hain. Main yeh keh sakta hoon, Orissa government... thodi hi der bahar hai (We have good influence in Orissa. Our ministry gave the Naveen Patnaik government relief worth Rs 9,000 crore. We can make him do anything. Let me tell you Orissa government... is out of the ambit only for a while),” Rateria tells Rahul, the representative of an Australia-based company seeking the deals.

A visibly rattled Patnaik dubbed the allegations “incorrect, baseless and ridiculous”. “This kind of insinuation is most unhealthy. I am disappointed,” he said today at Bhubaneswar airport on returning from a two-day tour of Koraput district. “As far as our government and I am concerned, we have nothing to do with anything being said.”

“I have been running the government in the most transparent manner. All deals, including the mining deals, have been done as per rules,” Patnaik added.

But the clamour of state Opposition parties to bring Patnaik within the ambit of the probe announced yesterday by the Prime Minister gained momentum.

“Since Naveen is a co-accused in the case, the Prime Minister should ensure he is also brought under the purview of the probe,” said Orissa Gana Parishad chief Bijoy Mohapatra, who has long been accusing the chief minister of making crores through mining deals.

“It’s the only source of revenue for him. That’s why he rushes to Delhi so often. Five days ago, he had gone to Delhi for that purpose,” Mohapatra, a known Patnaik-baiter, alleged.

This, however, is not the first insinuation of its kind regarding mining deals in the state. Several legislators of the ruling Biju Janata Dal and the Opposition had alleged this year that the government was showing undue favour to the Jindals in mining at Tangarpada in Dhenkanal district.

A House committee, led by state industries minister K.V. Singhdeo, is now probing alleged irregularities in a joint venture between the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation of Orissa Ltd and Jindal Strips Limited for chrome-ore mining in over 505 hectares at Tangarpada.

The latest probe demand may have been fuelled by Rateria’s insistent references to the chief minister in the CD.

“Orissa mein tasalli banaon. Jo chahenge voh hoga. Chunaav nipat jaaye, Dilli mein Patnaik ke saath baith ke apni saari consultants bulva lena (Rest assured about Orissa. Whatever we want will happen. Just let the elections get over. Then we will sit with Patnaik in Delhi and you can call all your consultants),” Rateria is heard telling Rahul.

At one point, Rahul says: “Usko (apparently Patnaik) thoda sa milke... apan ko thoda kaam aage badhana hain... (I need to meet him to move my work forward).” Rateria then answers: “Aapko agar vahan koi kaam aage badhana hai, toh hum forward kar dete hain CM house mein. Aap unse jaake milo. Aapko voh poori tavajjo denge (If you want to get some work done there, we will forward the plea to the CM’s house. You go and meet him. He will give you a proper hearing).”

In a bid to clarify any doubt, Rateria adds: “Meri baat suno. Orissa ke mamle mein agar aap kisi ko bhi bhejoge Vikram Singh (Judeo’s officer on special duty) ke paas, voh 100-point verified hoga (Listen to me, if you send someone to Vikram Singh on the Orissa matter, it will be verified 100-point).”

The Congress called for a CBI probe of the chief minister’s alleged role and state chief Sarat Patnaik announced a dharna in front of the Raj Bhavan from tomorrow to press the demand.

Orissa Gana Abhijan chief Mayadhar Nayak demanded Patnaik’s resignation. He, too, called for a CBI inquiry into all mining deals of the Patnaik regime.

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