The Telegraph
Friday , August 1 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Plot row: Balabantaray surrenders one house

Bhubaneswar, July 31: Dharmasala MLA Pranab Balabantaray, son of BJD vice-president and Rajya Sabha member Kalpataru Das, today surrendered one of the two houses allotted to him under the discretionary quota from the Bhubaneswar Development Authority following a controversy over the misuse of this quota.

He also wrote a letter to chief minister Naveen Panaik explaining his stand. Balabantaray is the second leader of the ruling party after parliamentary affairs minister Bikram Keshari Arukh to return a house allotted under the discretionary quota. Arukh returned his house in 2011 when he was rural development minister.

Based on the accountant general’s letter to the state government on how 29 influential people had managed to get more than two houses, The Telegraph, in its July 23 edition, carried a report on the issue. Following the report, a hue and cry was raised and pressure mounted on Balabantaray to surrender one of the houses allotted to him.

Balabantaray had got two houses from the development authority. While he got one house in his name under the discretionary quota, the second one was allotted for his company, Balabantaray Transport and Minerals Company, through lottery, but he was the applicant in this case as well. Pranab was allotted flat number E-09 at Netaji Subash Enclave at Gadakana under the discretionary quota.

In his letter to the vice-chairman of the development authority, Balabantaray said: “There have been several allegations that the flat has been illegally allotted in my favour. There has also been a series of media publications tarnishing the image of my father and the BJD. Thus on moral grounds, I do hereby surrender the flat.” However, he asserted that he had done nothing wrong and demanded an inquiry into the allotment.

The alleged misuse of the discretionary quota has tarnished the image of the party as the issue rocked the Assembly exposing the government’s double standard as allegations were made that Das’s family had managed to get more than one house using their political clout. Das’s wife owns a plot allotted to her by the authority at Prachi Enclave in Chandrashekharpur under the discretionary quota.

Das had sought to defend himself, saying that his son and wife represented different families.

But later, following criticism he made a somersault and said: “I and my wife belong to a single family. But my son represents another family. He files his income tax return accordingly.”

Das said that his son had got these houses under two schemes. “Under one of these schemes at the time of application the development authority did not seek an affidavit on whether the applicant’s family members had any other house in their name,” he had said.

The former minister said the fact of the matter was that at that point of time the authority was finding it hard to sell these houses that appeared to have been the reason for relaxation.

But, his opinion drew sharp criticism from within the ruling party. Senior minister Damodar Rout had demanded an investigation into the issue, saying that there was a well-defined policy of the government on land distribution and allotment of houses. “Anybody while applying for a house in Bhubaneswar has to furnish an affidavit that he does not have land or house either in his name or in that of his family members in the city. Then only one can be eligible for allotment of a homestead plot or a house. But, it seems in this case this well-defined policy has not been followed,” he had said.

Puri MLA Maheswar Mohanty had also taken potshots at Das without naming him bringing into open the rift within the party over the issue. The BJD’s youth face and Cuttack Barbati MLA Debasis Samantray had advised Pranab to come clean by surrendering one of the two houses.