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For CM, trouble brews at home

Naveen Patnaik and Kalpataru Das

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 10: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s own party members have brought more trouble for him in his fourth term rather than the Opposition. After the CBI raided the house of one MP and another former Rajya Sabha member, questions have been raised about the integrity of a number of BJD leaders.

The CBI has already raided the houses of Ramchandra Hansda and former Rajya Sabha member Renubala Pradhan. The CBI raided Hansda’s house to find his link with the money circulation company — Nabadiganta Capital Service — and Pradhan’s house to collect evidence in connection with leave travel concession (LTC) scam.

While these two leaders have tarnished the image of Naveen to some extent, BJD vice-president and Rajya Sabha member Kalpataru Das’ act of acquiring property from Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) has put the government on the backfoot.

“People with allegations against them are callings the shots in the party till now. We have been sidelined,” rued a senior BJD leader.

Worried about their political future, the leaders against whom charges have been made said they were ready to face any probe.

Mayurbhanj MP Ramachandra Hansda even said he would resign if the chief minister asked him to do so.

Hansda, who returned from Delhi two days ago, said he would soon meet chief minister Naveen Patnaik and explain his stand on the entire issue.

Hansda, who remained silent till date, told The Telegraph, that his association with the Nabadiganta Capital Service began when one of the company officials had approached him and persuaded him to have an insurance policy in 2011.

“Later, they told me that they were going to form a company that would work for the betterment of the youths by providing them jobs. I did not smell anything wrong,” he said.

Hansda said that as a matter of policy, he and five others had separately bought eight per cent share in the company and the rest 52 per cent share remained in the hands of the owner of the company. It was decided that they would adhere to the non-banking finance rules.

Hansda claimed that he had given Rs 7 lakh to the company when it was passing through difficult times.

“I had got the money from the state Assembly as an MLA towards arrears. The company repaid Rs 1 lakh. When he did not return the balance amount, I smelt something foul. Despite my repeated requests they did not return my money. In November 2012, I resigned from the company. But the company endorsed it in May 2013. I had not pressed for acceptance of my resignation, because I was hoping to get back my money,” he said

On being asked about the seizure of Rs 28 lakh by the CBI from his house, Hansda said he had arranged the money from different sources to buy land at Baripada.

“Out of Rs 28 lakh, I had managed to save Rs 10 lakh from the party funds by cutting my election expenses and had arranged Rs 18 lakh from other sources,” he said.

However, Hansda said the CBI was yet to question him.

“Whenever they will ask me to present myself, I will certainly reach their office to co-operate with them.”

On being asked whether his activities have tarnished the image of Naveen, he said: “People know that I am innocent. There is sympathy for me in my district. Only my political opponents are demanding my arrest.”

Former Rajya Sabha member Renubala Pradhan said that after the CBI raided her house, she had explained her stand to officials of the investigating agency in New Delhi.

“I have submitted the statement of my bank accounts. There has been no further query from their side,” she said.

Pradhan said she had already met chief minister Naveen Patnaik and explained that she was innocent.

In her case, she said a travel company — Vandana Agency — used to arrange tickets for her journey from Delhi to Bhubaneswar.

“In 2012, I had brought four tickets. Being a Rajya Sabha member, the price of ticket was Rs 1,000. But the travel agency had taken Rs 1.60 lakh from the Rajya Sabha against the tickets. I had no idea about it till the matter was taken up by the CBI,” she said.

On being asked whether the CBI’s act would tarnish the image of Naveen, she said: “I can’t say that whether this act will tarnish his image. He is such a towering personality that such small things can’t dent his image.”

On the other hand, Kalpataru Das has already said his family had not done anything wrong and was ready to face any probe on the issue of allotment of houses under discretionary quota.

However, Naveen, who remains worried about his image, is yet to give him a chance to present his case before him.

In a related development, two BJD leaders — Prasanna Acharya and Kalindi Charan Behera — today hinted that allotment of houses under discretionary quota to family members of Rajya Sabha member Kalpataru Das had damaged the party’s image.

“Senior leaders of the party will meet the chief minister soon. For the sake of one individual, we will not allow the party’s image to be tarnished,” Behera said.

They also raised objections to the constitution of the three-member task force, which has been tasked with scrutinising allotment of houses and plots under the discretionary quota.

“Persons against whom there are allegations of having taken more than one house, should not be included in the task force,” Behera said.

Former minister Acharya said time had come for party leaders to introspect. Earlier on Saturday, two BJD leaders Damodar Rout and Prafulla Ghadei had questioned the task force.