Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 15:
It is now clear that there is more to the allegation of sexual misconduct levelled against Odisha Excise & Cooperation minister Dr Damodar Rout by a leading Odia daily than meets the eye.
Fresh revelations suggest that it is part of the internal wrangling that began within the ruling BJD in the wake of the controversy over allotment of houses and land to ruling party big wigs and favoured bureaucrats under the discredited discretionary quota.
Curiously, Textiles minister Snehangini Chhuria, the alleged victim of the sexual demeanour, has denied suggestions that she has been misbehaved with by Dr Rout or anybody else for that matter.
“As a people’s representative and as a minister, I do meet other ministers to discuss various issues. But the incident that is being talked about by everybody never happened,” she told the media today.
On his part, Dr Rout, the alleged perpetrator, revealed that he did not know that Durga Prasad Chhuria, the secretary of the Bargarh Regional Marketing Committee (RMC), was the minister’s husband when he ordered an inquiry against him for alleged bungling in rice procurement.
“Is it possible to know who is whose husband when there are thousands of people one deals with? Even if I did know, I could not have done otherwise because merely being related to a minister does not exempt someone from inquiry, could I?” the minister asked.
Rout, however, declined to say what exactly he discussed with Chhuria when she met him in his chamber inside the Assembly on July 22, when the alleged sexual misdemeanour took place.
“I am bound by the oath of secrecy,” was the lame excuse that he had to offer for his refusal to shed light on the meeting.
The minister, however, did concede that he had ordered an inquiry into the goings on in the Bargarh RMC following a complaint by farmers of the district that Durga Prasad Chhuria had indulged in large scale irregularities in the procurement of rice.
With the alleged victim herself denying that she had ever been misbehaved with, it is now clear that the report frontpaged in the Odia daily was a motivated plant to put the voluble Rout in his place.
Dr Rout, it may be noted, had gone ballistic in the wake of the unsavoury revelations about powerful Rajya Sabha Kalpataru Das availing multiple houses in Bhubaneswar under the discretionary quota, attacking his party colleague and even the Task Force that was formed by the state government to probe all allotments under the discretionary quota.
The report published in the Odia daily yesterday thus is being seen as a move by the rival group to hit back. There are two things that lend credence to such an assumption. First, the report appeared only yesterday, three full weeks after the alleged incident on July 22. Second, the editor of the daily is a BJD MP himself and thus an interested party in the tug of war going on inside the ruling party.