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House bears Patro brunt

- Plan to cut short winter session

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 14: The state government is contemplating to cut short the Assembly’s winter session with the Opposition taking an aggressive stand on the issue of revenue minister Surjya Narayan Patro’s alleged misleading statement on central assistance for Phailin and flood-hit areas.

Demanding the minister’s resignation, the Opposition had stalled the House yesterday and threatened to protest further if he refused to step down. “If the state government fails to rise to the occasion, we will take the issue to the people,” said leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh.

Even BJD members were disappointed the way the revenue minister misled the House on the central assistance. On December 11, he told the Assembly that the Centre had released only Rs 250 crore to the state.

However, by that time, the Centre had released the Rs 1,000 crore as promised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Of this, Rs 250 crore was released to the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and Rs 750 crore to the state exchequer from the National Disaster Response fund (NDRF) in two instalments.

The last allotment of Rs 500 crore was deposited in the state’s exchequer on December 3.

After the Opposition raked up the issue of how the BJD was leading a misinformation campaign against the Centre, the ruling party was pushed on the back foot.

Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan said: “We have a strong suspicion that treasury bench will cut short the Assembly session, which is scheduled to conclude on December 26. We will go public on the issue tomorrow.”

“We have already made up our mind to wind up the Assembly session. But if we abruptly end it, this will send a wrong message. The party will take a stand on the issue on Monday,” said a senior MLA of the ruling party.

Parliamentary affairs minister Kalpataru Das, who is on a damaged-control exercise, said: “The decision of winding up the Assembly session will be taken only after soliciting opinions of the House members. As the revenue minister has already corrected his statement on the issue of central assistance, I hope the Opposition will not raise the matter again on Monday.”

Significantly, the revenue minister’s statement has not gone well with the ruling party members too. BJD MLA Pradeep Maharathy yesterday had suggested that Patro should resign on this issue. But today he backtracked. “Maharathy was asked to do so,” said a source in the BJD.

The BJD MPs had also expressed their dismay over the issue. “We had organised a protest rally in Delhi on December 10 on the issue of central negligence. The protest rally could not have been organised without the consent of the chief minister. Perhaps the bureaucrats had even misled the chief minister on this issue. We were left red-faced,” said an MP.

BJD MP Baishnab Parida said: “The resident commissioner in Delhi should have informed us. As we had not been informed, we had raised the issue. However, the state deserves more funds.”

Another BJD MP, Kalikesh Naryan Singh Deo, refrained from making any statement: “It would be better if you ask this question to our leaders, including Bhartuhari Mahatab.” However, Mahatab’s mobile was switched off.

The attempts to contact the BJD’s senior MP Baijayant (Jay) Panda could not materialise. Though his office had promised to get his reaction on this issue, it did not get back.

BJD deputy chief whip Sanjay Dasburma said: “We will bring a motion on the issue of central negligence on Monday. We had demanded Rs 5,432 crore from the Centre to take up construction and relief, but we have only got Rs 750 crore. It’s really unfortunate. The Opposition should stop creating a hullabaloo on this issue.”

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