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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Odisha Whispers

Faux pas

A faux pas during the 44th annual convocation of Utkal University raised many eyebrows. The press release issued by the university on the occasion mentioned former president of Servants of People Society, Manubhai Patel, as the former chief minister of Gujarat. Incidentally, this piece of (mis)information about Patel, who had been chosen for the award of an honoris causa degree which was put on hold at the last moment, was also displayed on the university’s website on the eve of the convocation. One wonders if the university officials did realise their mistake but Patel missed the award after governor M.C. Bhandare decided to keep it in abeyance following several petitions against the Gujarat leader, including a criminal complaint registered in Cuttack.

 

Foreign visits

Politicians and bureaucrats drool at the opportunity of making all-paid foreign trips. But not all of them are as lucky as the top mandarins of the state tourism and culture department. If sources in the department are to be believed, culture secretary Ashok Kumar Tripathy would be packing his bags for a trip to Sweden later this month to look for opportunities to hard sell Odisha among the Swedes. Not to be left behind, tourism director Hari Shankar Upadhyay will also be visiting Berlin with a similar aim in mind. Both the officials are supposed to have a busy schedule while they are on duty abroad but one hopes they will find ways of mixing work with pleasure..

 

Sign of strain

All does not seem to be well between South Korean steel behemoth Posco and the government of Odisha. The strain between them has become obvious in the wake of a recent seminar organised by the company near its project site in Jagatsinghpur district despite the reluctance of the government. The government was apparently against the seminar as the company’s 12-million tonne project still continues to face resistance from the local residents. It would have liked Posco officials to wait for the atmosphere in the area to become congenial for organising such an event but the company went ahead with it. Not only that, the company is also reported to be unhappy about the absence of top government leaders and officials at the event. One should not be surprised if the bickering between the two sides intensifies in the coming days. Industries minister Raghunath Mohanty will find then find the situation too hot to handle.

Query time

Though not quite as punctual as his late father Biju Patnaik, chief minister Naveen Patnaik is almost invariably in his third floor office at the state secretariat by 11.30am unless there are other pressing engagements elsewhere. Journalists, especially those belonging to the audio-visual medium, know this and ensure that they are present on the third floor of Sachivalaya exactly at that time so that they can ask Naveen the questions they are supposed to before he gets busy with official work. However, on a particular day last week they found him rather reluctant to take their questions as he had arrived late at the secretariat around 12 noon. The chief minister initially sought to excuse himself politely but when he found the mediapersons persisting with their queries, his mood changed. “Relax, relax,” he said breaking into a smile indicating that he was ready to entertain their questions. The mediapersons, who often face a news drought in Bhubaneswar, actually felt relaxed.

No excuses

Nothing seems to be working right for state BJP president Jual Oram. While the number of his enemies keeps growing by the day, his political stock has taken a nosedive in the wake of the party’s drubbing in the recent panchayat elections. While the party has fared badly almost all over the state, it is the BJP’s performance in Oram’s home district, Sundergarh, which has become the taking point. Though his supporters claim that given the odds the BJP has not done badly in Sundergarh, there is no denying that the ruling BJD has fared better. To be fair to Oram, he was faced with formidable opposition in the district in the shape of excise minister Sharda Nayak and independent MLA George Tirkey, but then that cannot be an excuse for poor performance.

Footnote

Strong rival

The stock of former Congress MLA Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra has gone up in the wake of the panchayat polls with the party doing reasonably well in his constituency,
Brahmagiri, despite stiff opposition from the ruling Biju Janata Dal.

This has brought Mohapatra, who is known as Lulu among friends, back into reckoning as far as leadership issue is concerned.

With Congress dissidents all set to launch a campaign against incumbent state president Niranjan Patnaik, who has failed to lead the party to victory even in a single election it has fought since he took up the reins, the case of Lulu as his replacement is likely to become stronger.

What matters most is that Lulu still enjoys a lot of support among the party's youth brigade.