Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bargarh, Jun 24:
Drought hit, backward yet politically supercharged Bargarh, that has been in news through the past year for the high profile visits by top politicians apart from farmer suicide, today witnessed an unsavoury political battle as Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal workers took to violence and pelted stones at visiting Union Minister Santosh Gangwar’s car.
Besides, hoards of BJD supporters waved black flags, placards and banners at the carcade of Union Minister of State for Ministry of Textiles Gangwar, Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Niranjan Jyoti and former Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda who were in the town along with state leadership of BJP for attending the Vikas Utsav organised by the party.
While the leaders moved to the meeting venue amidst stiff opposition, Gangwar took a dig at Naveen Patnaik and his government over the incident.
“The way I was behaved with, it could not be done by a single individual. I believe, Naveen Patnaik will have nothing to boast of when people start asking him his report card of sixteen years. He is hurt to see the report of the Modi government’s two-year rule. The people of Odisha have started to understand this. This is why his party is bewildered,” said Gangwar.
“The protection of a Union Minister is the duty of the State Government. The State Government has failed in it. I think this is unfortunate. I would urge Mr. Patnaik to deliberate on this. Besides, I wonder, if this government can’t protect a minister of the Central Government, how it protects the common men,” he added.
Odisha BJP also took an aggressive stance over the issue.
“The protests and the humiliation that was extended to our leaders by the local MLA and the BJD minister today would not have been possible without the direction of the Chief Minister. BJP would retaliate back. We will oppose the tours of BJD ministers everywhere in the coming days,” vowed BJP General Secretary Bhrugu Baxipatra.
“They have not only humiliated the guests of the State Government, but also humiliated the leadership representative these (OBC, SC/ ST) sections of the society,” he accused further trying to play the caste card.
Odisha BJP’s twitter handle @BJPOdisha tweeted:
It is highly condemnable that Union min @santoshgangwar being OBC, Sadhvi Niranjan being a SC woman & Ex CM Arjun Munda being a ST attacked
— BJP Odisha (@BJPOdisha) June 24, 2016
The stone-pelters and agitators, led by local BJD MLA Debesh Acharya — who along with some of his supporters were arrested after the incident– defended their action.
“There has been no development here. All the big claims of the Union Government are nothing but hoax. The farmers are not receiving the minimum support price for their produces, the insurance schemes have not been implemented. Subsidies are not reaching the intended beneficiaries. There are many other issues where the center has neglected us,” said Acharya. He, however, conveniently forgot that many of the issues he was raising were state subjects.
The incident not only brought to fore the ugly face of politics, but also highlighted the utter failure of the police. At a time when stones were being pelted at the car of Gangwar, the cops on duty were seen running around for no apparent reason instead of protecting the under-attack minister.
“This was happening in the presence of the police. Instead of protecting the victims, the cops were protecting the ruling party workers,” said BJP MLA Pradip Purohit.
Intelligence failure is also to be blamed given couple of BJD workers had tried to sneak in to the venue of BJP meeting and had attempted to disrupt proceedings there earlier in the day. According to Purohit, they were heard hurling expletives towards BJP leaders before being driven away from the venue by BJP workers.
It may be noted here that BJD supporters had also held a rally in the town earlier in the day and had vowed not to allow the union ministers inside the town.
“Even though the police were aware of the event and their plans for agitation, instead of taking troublemakers into preventive custody, the local police turned into a mute spectator encouraging the ruling party workers in the run up to the incident. They, however, were super efficient when they took away female supporters of BJP at midnight on the eve of Naveen Patnaik’s tour to Sambalpur,” said a BJP supporter from Sambalpur.
BJD Spokesperson Dibya Shankar Mishra played down the incident. While his statement criticized the attack, he was quick to justify the sentiments behind it.
“It is wrong to do so, no matter who did it. However, I must add that this is a reflection of the anti-farmer policies of the Union Government. If the Center observes Vikas Yatras instead of addressing the concern of the public, there would certainly be public backlash. Biju Janata Dal cannot stop it even if it wants to,” said Mishra.
Same sentiment was echoed by another Spokesperson of the party Amar Prasad Satpathy who cited the Dillip Ray episode to highlight the public discontent over Modi Government’s performance and said ,”if you keep making announcements without implementing them, the dissatisfaction would obviously reflect”.
It must be noted here that Bargarh is no stranger to high profile visits. In the past one year itself, the district has been frequented by and has witnessed rallies of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others.
While political gains over the bodies of farmers had been the standard practice until now, violence — more so against a visiting dignitary — was unheard of. Ironically, the incident occurred at a place named after ‘Gandhi’.
Amidst all the hoopla, the voices of traditional waivers, who had been there to meet the Textile Minister was lost.
“We were here to meet the Minister and discuss our issues. Although we managed to submit a memorandum and he assured that our issues would be looked into, we were unable to explain him our problems the way we wanted to,” said a waiver from the group – famous for the Sambalpuri pata sarees.
“We work for long hours to make a little money. Apart from the money, this is the question of our culture, our heredity. We needed a little assurance from the Minister to promote our products so that not only we are benefited, but the tradition lives on. However, that was not to be amidst the political slugfest,” said a lady waiver, who was seen waiting outside the Vikas Utsav venue to meet the minister.
While the reporters took up the issue with the Minister, he replied, “I just signed a loan package of Rs 1 crore,” without getting into the details of it.