'Daughter' roped in to defeat 'father'

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By MANOJ KAR
  • Published 17.04.14
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Sanjita Dhali

Kendrapara, April 16: Poll battle in the prestigious Mahakalpada constituency turned murkier with the BJP unleashing a special weapon to woo the majority Bengali voters of the area.

Sanjita Dhali, a Bengali who claims to be the daughter of former minister Arabinda Dhali who campaigned for the BJD candidate in the constituency along with chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday, canvassed support for BJP candidate Bijoy Mohapatra in the Bengali-dominated villages of Kharnasi and Ramnagar. Dhali has been campaigning in the area.

Since 2009, Sanjita has been fighting a protracted battle to prove that she is the biological daughter of Arabinda Dhali, who was a minister in the BJP-BJD coalition government and also happens to be the outgoing MLA from Jaydev constituency.

BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra is locked a proxy poll battle with chief minister Naveen Patnaik here. The constituency has 30,000 Bengali-speaking voters. With the BJD pulling out all stops to defeat Mohapatra, the migrant Bengali settlers’ votes have become a deciding factor for the final outcome.

Sanjita drew curious crowd as she went on canvassing in Bengali-dominated villages such as Kharinasi and Ramnagar. Voters listened to her with rapt attention. Her campaign has caused much embarrassment to Dhali senior while triggering headache for the BJD, which does not want any split in the Bengali votes.

Dhali during his campaign had exhorted the people to reject the BJP as it is hell-bent on branding and deporting all bona fide Bengali-speaking settlers as Bangladeshis. So, casting vote in favour of the BJP means inviting doom, Dhali said in the poll meeting, which Naveen had also addressed.

Sanjita, on the other hand, said: “The chief minister could not deliver justice to a young Bengali girl, who was fighting for her rights. How can he ensure the protection of Bengali-speaking people? I had met chief minister and pleaded him to intervene, so that Dhali would accept me as his daughter. But, he did not side with a victim girl.”

She said the ruling party was shedding crocodile tears for the Bengalis. “It kept mum for 14 years on issues affecting the Bengali settlers here. My father visited the areas and begged for the Bengali votes. He has failed to accord recognition to me as his daughter. I am demanding a paternity test to prove that I am his biological child. But, he has been dodging the test on the ground that the matter is sub-judice. People would not trust him. His appeal would have no bearing on the voters,” she said.

Arabinda Dhali, on the other hand, said the BJP has stooped to a new low by roping in Sanjita for campaigning. He refused to comment on the paternity controversy.