Bhubaneswar, April 29: Even as BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka enjoys his new-found freedom mingling with friends and relatives at his home in Laxmipur, senior party leaders appear keen to put an end to the controversy arising out of his reported promise to his Maoist captors about quitting as a lawmaker.
Sources said former minister and Jeypore MLA Rabi Narayan Nanda, who hails from the same Koraput district as Hikaka, today met chief minister Naveen Patnaik to discuss the political future of the tribal legislator. The rebels set Hikaka free on April 26 after more than a month of captivity.
Sources said Nanda had sought to convince Naveen, who has so far spoken with Hikaka only once since his release, that the 38-year-old MLA was an asset for the party and too much should not be read into the undertaking he gave to the rebels to secure his freedom. Sources said most of the BJD leaders believed that Hikaka had made the promise only to avoid being held by them for a longer time.
While Hikaka is likely to meet Naveen soon to discuss the issue, the party is standing behind him as one. The overwhelming opinion in the BJD is that the MLA, instead of entertaining the thoughts of making good his promise to the Maoists, who have strong pockets of influence in his constituency, should concentrate on consolidating his support base.
Hikaka himself indicated that he would take a final call on the issue after meeting the chief minister. Talking to The Telegraph over phone from Laxmipur, the legislator said: “I am planning to visit Bhubaneswar within a day or two. I will meet the chief minister. You will get the answers to all questions after that.”
Sources close to Hikaka’s family said that even after being released by the Maoists, the MLA had been reflecting over the possibility of a backlash from the rebels, who made him sign an undertaking at a people’s court on April 24 that he would resign his Assembly seat after being set free. The kangaroo court, which the rebels organise to deliver instant justice, itself, was a humiliating experience for the tribal legislator, who had to sign to undertaking under duress.
“Unfortunately, the Maoists, who had held him in the forests of Narayanpatna in Koraput, also made him read out the promise, which was taped. His supporters fear that the tapes might be used against him in future,” said a source. However, the MLA should be able to get over his fears quickly considering that his entire party was behind him.
While the debate over Hikaka’s plight continues, the state government has stepped up its anti-Maoist operation across Odisha. Security forces engaged in combing operation recently came close to nabbing top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda. Panda, said sources, had managed to flee following an encounter between the rebels and the security forces on the Ganjam-Kandhamal border on Friday.
“The Maoists started firing when the Special Operations Group and the CRPF chanced upon their camp following a combing operation. They retreated when we retaliated,” Ganjam superintendent of police Rajesh Pandit said.