Odia filmstar joins BJD in poll season

Yesteryear's popular Odia film hero Uttam Mohanty, who is head of the most powerful star family in the state, in a surprise move today joined the BJD.

By SUBRAT DAS in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 28.01.17

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 27: Yesteryear's popular Odia film hero Uttam Mohanty, who is head of the most powerful star family in the state, in a surprise move today joined the BJD.

Uttam and his wife Aparajita had ruled the Odia cine industry for more than two decades and their only son Babushan is the present heartthrob of Odia youths. Incidentally, Aparajita had unsuccessfully contested from Cuttack Lok Sabha seat in 2014 on a Congress ticket.

Uttam, who was in the news last year for allegedly promoting a Ponzi company, today said: "I have been a fan of late Biju Patnaik since his Utkal Congress days (early 70s) and am an admirer of chief minister Naveen Patnaik. I will work as a foot soldier of the BJD and if asked I will campaign for the party in the panchayat elections," he said while making it clear that he had no role in promoting the Ponzi company excepting for attending one or two of their events as a film star.

Uttam has acted in more than 135 Odia films, 30 Bengali films and Hindi movie "Naya Zahar".

"It (his joining BJD) is his personal wish and I respect his decision, " was Aparajita's response to her husband joining the BJD. Asked whether she continues to be in the Congress or not.

"Today, ask me about Uttam Babu only," she said.

Welcoming the 63-year-old star, along with actor Asit Pati, the chief minister said: "The joining of two leaders will strengthen the party."

Mohanty joined the BJD on a day Naveen addressed leaders, who have been nominated as party's observers for the panchayat polls, here today.

He said the party would highlight the Centre's neglect of Odisha, be it in case of Mahanadi river dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh, allowing the Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh or curtailment of central funds to the backward state.

On the other hand, Congress today launched its campaign from Balipatna on city outskirts shortly after party leaders released the manifesto.

The 20-page booklet talks about giving ration card to all eligible families, hike of the old age and disabled pension to Rs 1,500 per month, pension of Rs 2,000 to those aged above 80 and a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 to each farmer family.

Alleging that the state government has failed to properly implement Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, the party promised employment for 250 days a year to job-card holders.

The Congress also listed 16 failures and misdeeds during the 16-year-rule of Naveen. The list includes Kalinganagar police firing that claimed 13 tribals, multi-crore mining and deposit collection scams, farmer suicides, death of hundreds of tribal children due to Japanese encephalitis and malnutrition, Daana Majhi episode and killing of five innocent tribals in Kandhamal in a fake encounter.

Saying that rural Odisha can be empowered if 1.06 lakh panchayat representatives are elected in a free and fair manner, state Congress chief Prasad Harichandan said: "Powers of the local bodies have been concentrated in the hands of bureaucrats, who are sitting at the state secretariat. Government officials at the district level have turned into henchmen of the ruling party."

The BJP has also started campaign across the state in full swing.

"Our leaders have fanned out across the state to participate in the election campaign. However, government officials at the behest of the ruling party are influencing voters," said BJP state vice-president Samir Mohanty, who is camping in Balasore.

The BJD and Congress leaders, on the other hand, alleged that the BJP was distributing free cooking gases under the Ujjwala scheme to influence rural voters in violation of model code of conduct. Incidentally, 47 LPG cylinders were seized during distribution in Bhatabanda village under Nimapara district of Puri district today.