Minister kin hurt in attack

Bhubaneswar: Violence gripped Bijepur ahead of the polling day on Saturday with minister of state for labour Sushant Singh's brother Subrat Singh and three of his aides suffering grievous injuries in an attack on the fringe of the constituency.

Hours after campaigning for the bypoll drew to an end on Thursday, goons intercepted the vehicle of Subrat near Sohela block's Banabira Chowk around 1am on Friday.

The goons, who thrashed Subrat, his aides Prabhat Kumar Nag and Khageswar Mahalik and his driver Dileswar Sahu, also threw stones and allegedly fired at the vehicle.

Police arrived at the spot and rushed the injured to Vimsar in Burla. The criminals managed to escape from the spot before the cops arrived.

Subrat said he and his colleagues had gone to Banabira Chhak on receiving news that some BJP workers were distributing money to voters. When they reached the spot, around 40 armed goons attacked them. First, they pelted the vehicle with stones, damaging its front glass and then opened fire, he said.

However, Vimsar director Aswani Pujahari said the injured did not suffer bullet injuries.

Briefing reporters at Bargarh, inspector general of police (northern range) Sushanta Nath said three persons, including Basudeb Naik who had unsuccessfully contested the last zila parishad election in Bargarh district, had been arrested. Sources said the FIR lodged in connection with the case also mentioned a former MLA.

The incident has triggered an immediate blame game with the BJD accusing the BJP of conspiring to disrupt the bypoll.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik condemned the attack, saying there was no place for violence in a democracy.

"The people of Odisha are peace loving. I strongly condemn this cowardly act," said Naveen. BJD's Rajya Sabha MP Prasanna Acharya submitted a memorandum to the Bargarh collector, alleging that there was a conspiracy to disrupt peace during the election. In Bhubaneswar, minister Surya Narayan Patro met the chief electoral officer and demanded arrest of the culprits.

Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, however, blamed the BJD for the violence. His party MLA Pradeep Purohit also accused the BJD of making baseless allegations against the BJP.

He said the violence could have been the fall-out of a tender-fixing dispute.

While the CRPF and the BSF, along with state police, conducted a flag march at Barpali, Bijepur and Gaisilet block headquarters on Friday, Bargarh collector Yamini Sarangi said 12 squads, three static and three video surveillance teams had been formed for smooth conduct of polling.

Additional reporting by Subhas Panigrahi in Bargarh


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