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Shield charge on Naveen

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 19: The BJP today accused the Naveen Patnaik government of shielding its leaders in the housing scam as it had done in the case of the deposit collection case.

The party demanded a CBI inquiry into the housing scam as well, but the BJD asserted that there was no need for it as the task force constituted was competent enough to probe the case.

“In 2013, the state government had filed two affidavits before the Supreme Court, stating that the state’s crime branch was doing its job to expose the deposit collection scam and there was no political involvement in it. It had even engaged senior lawyers to defend the state’s stance. Now, the CBI, which has taken over the probe, is conducting raids on residences of political persons,” senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra said.

Mohapatra alleged that the state government was now adopting the same tactics as it had done in the deposit collection scam to dilute the housing scam by forming a task force. “You (the chief minister) remained silent on the deposit collection scam and now doing the same thing for the land scam. While your opposition to a CBI probe into the money deposit circulation scam did not succeed, the housing scam will also meet the same fate,” said Mohapatra.

Targeting Naveen, the BJP leader said: “Why did the chief minister not form a task force in 2012 when the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) had brought the matter to his notice? He had remained silent so far. The state should hand over the case to the CBI to unearth the truth without further delay,” he said.

The senior leader also accused the Naveen Patnaik government of not co-operating with the CAG during its audit of the land allotments made by the Bhubaneswar Development Authority and the general administration department.

“The auditor general had sought certain files from the development authority and the general administration department. But, they are yet to provide the details, despite repeated reminders. This only indicates that the chief minister wants to suppress the matter,” Mohapatra said.

Stating that the task force was only meant to cover up the scandal, Mohapatra said that since Naveen was heading the general administration department, which allocated land to politicians and others, he should also be named as an accused.

“How could an accused form a taskforce and sit in judgement?” asked Mohapatra.

He said that adding the according to the CAG report, the pages of the documents related to the land distribution had been ripped out.

However, former minister Pratap Keshari Deb sprung to the government’s defence. “The BJP is trying to politicise the issue. The state is always co-operating with the auditor general. The auditor general never said the Odisha government was not supporting it,” said Deb.

He also said there was no need to hand over the issue of allotment of plots and houses under the discretionary quota to the CBI for probe. “If the task force constituted by the government fails to do its task, it can be challenged in court. Everyone should wait. The BJP is raising the issue to divert attention from its own internal strife,” he said.

On the issue of the CBI raid on BJD leaders in connection with the money circulation scam, Deb said: “All should wait for the CBI report.”

An official said the task force on allotments under the discretionary quota would not only examine the plots distributed by the development authority, but also examine the plots and houses allotted by the Cuttack Development Authority.

Sources said the Cuttack Development Authority had allotted more than 450 plots and houses under the quota in the Bidanasi Housing Project area. “We are collating the number of plots and houses allotted under the quota in the past 20 years. Irregularities regarding the allotment will be examined by the newly constituted task force,” vice-chairman of the Cuttack Development Authority Pratap Das told The Telegraph today.

In 2011, a petition, purported to be a PIL filed in Orissa High Court, had sought a CBI probe into the alleged misuse of discretionary quota in allotment of land by the development authorities in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The high court had dismissed the petition as “not maintainable”.


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