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BJD seeks to deny links with Odisha chit fund scam accused; in vain

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 11:

Embarrassed by revelations of the close links of Odisha chit fund scam accused Ranjan Dash with top leaders of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the ruling party today refuted allegations that he was one of the proposers for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the BJD presidential election in January 2013.

Ranjan Dash ( in red circle) with Kalpataru Das and Pravat Tripathy with Naveen Patnaik's nomination papers
Ranjan Dash ( in red circle) with Kalpataru Das and Pravat Tripathy with Naveen Patnaik’s nomination papers

“Reports appearing in a section of the media that Dash was one of the proposers for the Chief Minister are not true. As far as I know, it remains to be ascertained if he was a member of the party at all. A photograph means nothing. But I can assure you he was not a front ranking member of the party. He could have been there as a friend of Pravat Tripathy, the returning officer for the election,” BJD spokesperson Samir Das said today without quite realising that his statement designed to bail the party out of the cleft stick that is caught on constituted an indictment of Tripathy.

In a front page report, leading Odia daily ‘Sambad’ had carried a photograph of Dash in the company of party vice president Kalpataru Das and Tripathy at the party office displaying the signed nomination paper of Naveen Patnaik. The report had said that Dash, along with Kalpataru Das, had gone to Naveen Nivas to get the nomination paper signed by the party supremo. Both of them went back to the BJD office, where the tell-all photograph was taken, with the signed nomination together in the same vehicle, the report said.

Not satisfied with Samir Das’ rather unconvincing explanation, the BJD also fielded Balangir MP Kalikesh Narayan Singhdeo and Mahanga MLA Pratap Jena to defend the party on the issue.

“In politics, we come across a variety of people. With regard to chit fund issue and land issue raised by the opposition, they are being investigated by different agencies like the CBI and Crime Branch. We should wait for the outcome of the investigations. There should be no doubt that whoever is found guilty will be punished. The law will take its course. The chief minister has always been transparency in the government and he is going to spare no one,” the suave Balangir MP said.

Party spokesman and MLA from Mahanga Pratap Jena  told the media that there were 40 lakh members in the BJD and it was not possible to check everyone’s credentials before inducting them into the party.

“We do admit that he was there in the party during nomination. Later, it was found that he was linked with several chit fund companies. We are not trying to cover up the matter. We, our leader and everybody in our party are against corruption and want that anybody who is corrupt should be punished,” said Jena.

Jena’s statement appeared to contradict Samir Das’ version, which sought to delink Dash, a founder member of the tainted AT group and promoter of Swastik India Multipurpose Credit Coopertaive Society, from the party altogether. Dash is now on a 14-day remand with the CBI after being arrested for his role in the chit fund scam.