Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jul 16
After the disgraceful send-off of the Odisha Finance minister Pradip Amat, who was not allowed to attend the Niti Aayog meeting presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, the state government is pulling out all stops to protect the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik form the barrage of criticism coming its way for the fiasco.
As soon as the news flashed on television, BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb was called up to the third floor (office of the Chief Minister at the State Secretariat) and asked to give a clarification to the media about the incident. This despite the fact that Deb is only a party spokesperson and holds no position in the government and is thus not entitled to speak on an issue that is strictly in the government’s domain.
Deb told the media that it was a ‘communication gap’ as the state government received the message from the Centre that no other person except the Chief Minister can attend the meeting rather late in the day.
“Due to the delayed message, the state government could not intimate the information to the Finance minister,” Deb said.
But curiously, he followed it up with a line that appeared to counter this explanation. “The Finance minister had in fact gone to New Delhi to attend the e-Commerce meeting, not the Niti Aayog meeting,” the party spokesperson said directly countering what the Finance minister had said the previous evening before leaving for the meeting.
Not only had the Finance minister said that he was going to New Delhi to attend the Niti Aayog meeting, he had even listed the issues he would make at the meeting.
But with the CMO having decided to take recourse to this specious plea, poor Amat had no option but to eat his words and parrot the line given to him by the supremo.
“I was at the Odisha Bhawan all through the day. How could I have gone to attend the Niti Aayog meeting?” he retorted when asked by reporters about reports that he had been turned away from the meeting because he did not have the entry pass, cutting a sorry figure in the process.
Not satisfied with humiliating the Finance minister, the CMO then directed the Chief Resident Commissioner in New Delhi to refute media reports and send a press release to this effect. Resident Commissioner Sunil Bhargav duly sent out the press release to media houses in the evening, which read; “The Finance minister was not scheduled to attend the meeting which was meant for Chief Ministers. The Finance minister was in Delhi to attend a meeting on e-commerce under the chairmanship of the Commerce & Industry minister.”
Interestingly, Bhargav himself had told the media earlier in the day that he had informed the CMO about the refusal of the Niti Aayog to accept the representation of the Finance minister on behalf of the Chief Minister to attend the meeting.
After embarrassing both the party spokesperson and the Resident Commissioner, both the CM and the CMO have maintained complete silence on the issue notwithstanding the fact that the state has been thoroughly insulted by the episode.
But then in Naveen’s regime, sacrificial goats have never been in short supply whenever the Chief Minister and BJD supremo have to be protected from criticism.