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Maheshwar shot at in Puri

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 21: Unidentified criminals shot at state law tourism and culture minister Maheshwar Mohanty in Puri, his home town and Assembly constituency, leaving him badly injured late in the evening.

Mohanty was fired upon while returning home on a scooty around 9.25pm at Amana Club near SCS College, barely 150 metres from his house. The 58-year-old leader, who has been representing the holy town in the Assembly four times in a row, took two bullets, one on his left hand and the other on his back.

Profusely bleeding, Mohanty, who fell from the scooty following the attack, was rushed to the district headquarters hospital. A special team of doctors has been constituted to take a call on his condition.

Sources said he might be shifted to Bhubaneswar or SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack.

Health minister Damodar Rout said: “We are prepared to shift him to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack. His condition is stable.”

Police have launched a manhunt to nab the criminals. “The incident looks like a fall out of political rivalry. However, we are looking at the incident from all other possible angles,” said a senior police officer, who refused to be quoted.

He said such an incident would not have taken place had Mohanty been accompanied by his personal security officer. “Puri, being his hometown, he avoids police protection,” said the officer.

Puri district headquarters hospital was a scene of chaos with hundreds of supporters of Mohanty, a popular figure in the town, thronging the premises and raising slogans in his favour. Though there was heavy police deployment at the hospital, but policemen were finding it hard to tackle the situation.

Mohanty, who began his political career as a councillor, was the chairman of the city municipality in the late 80s. Criminals attacked him in January 2012, while the leader was campaigning during the panchayat polls. He had suffered head injuries in the attack.

The leader, who is a postgraduate from Banaras Hindu University, started out in student politics in 1973, when he was elected general secretary of SCS College, Puri. Mohanty was twice elected as chairman of the Puri Municipality between 1985 and 1995.

In 1995, he was elected to the Assembly for the first time on a Janata Dal ticket. He had retained the seat in three subsequent elections on a BJD ticket.

Mohanty was the Speaker of Odisha Assembly from May 21, 2004 to March 31, 2008, when he had to demit office in the wake of a controversy.