Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 19:
Sensing an opportunity to reap some political dividends out of the issue, the two principal opposition parties in Odisha –Congress and BJP– today came all guns blazing against the Naveen Patnaik government for the inordinate delay in the Brahma Parivatan ritual of the presiding deities of Shree Jagannath temple of Puri on Tuesday.
While the BJP has sought the scalp of the chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Suresh Chandra Mohapatra demanding his suspension, the Congress, yet to recover from the severe jolt it received after former Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang joined the saffron party, has gone a step ahead by demanding Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s resignation and has sought a judicial inquiry into the issue.
At a press briefing held at the BJP state headquarters here, senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra held the chief administrator of the SJTA responsible for the inordinate delay and other disorder/deviation from tradition committed during the Brahma Parivatan ritual of the Lords.
The senior BJP leader urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to beg apology with folded hands from all believers of Lord Jagannath.
Expressing serious doubts over the smooth conduct of the forthcoming Rath Yatra, Mohapatra asked the state government to seek the Centre’s help in this regard.
The senior BJP leader questioned the propriety of the chief administrator of SJTA conducting the inquiry into the disturbances since he himself was the accused.
“In the first place, the accused doesn’t have the right to investigate. The government’s intentions were clear from the day it knowingly replaced the temple administrator. With a filthy mindset, it has destroyed the traditions of Lord Jagannath and hurt the sentiments of His followers. It is the Chief Minister who is first responsible; the second accused is the temple administration,” said Mohapatra briefing the media.
“The administrator says inquiry is on and on its completion, action will be taken. He should know that this is Lord Jagannath’s temple; it is not a department of the government like the GA, Housing or any other” said the senior BJP leader hinting at the chief administrator SJTA.
“It is the temple administrator who is responsible for all the disturbances right from the selection of the darus. Therefore, we demand his immediate suspension and removal from the post of chief administrator SJTA. If such a person remains in charge, the Nabakalebara Rath Yatra cannot be held smoothly. This is loud and clear. If indiscipline crops at that time, the government will be at a loss then with no options left with it. Since the Chief Minister has failed in his responsibility, he should stand up and beg apology with folded hands from the people of the state. They have destroyed the age-old traditions by leaving everything in the hands of a handful of officers by acting in the most irresponsible and blatant manner. All this drama continued and we had to bow our heads in shame before the international community,” said Mohapatra.
Union Petroleum and Natural Gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan also pitched in with a scathing attack on the government saying; “The state government cannot escape its responsibilities by taking the plea that Brahma Parivartan is a secret ritual. It was the responsibility of the government to ensure a hassle-free festival.”
Senior BJP leader Prithviraj Harichandan said the temple administration is responsible for the break in the age-old tradition of the temple.
“The government should learn a lesson from it. If it fails to properly monitor all rituals of the Lords till the conclusion of the Ratha Yatra, then the people of Odisha would point their fingers at it,” he said.
The Congress too didn’t wish to miss an opportunity to score a brownie point over the issue. Holding the state government squarely responsible for the disturbances, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Prasad Harichandan demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister on the issue and called for an inquiry by a judicial commission. Harichandan said Congress workers will remain on fast, stay awake and burn wicker lamps on June 26 as a mark of protest.
“Nothing is hidden; everything is clear. The chief of temple managing committee has in clear terms commented that politicking is taking place and those causing indiscipline are being tolerated since they are connected with the party in government. The involvement of the people in the indiscipline who are connected with the BJD has come out in the open. This government has handled the Nabakalebara of the Lords in the most irresponsible manner. What is most disturbing is the silence of the Chief Minister on the issue; he has kept mum over the issue that has hurt the feelings of millions of Jagannath devotees. Our party demands a high level judicial commission of inquiry into the incident like the way it was done in 1977,” Harichandan told the media at a press conference here today.
PCC chief spokesperson Ganeswar Behera echoed Harichandan and said the anguish of the Gajapati Maharaja is a clear indication that there was a gross deviation in Brahma Parivartan rituals.
“The remarks of the Gajapati king that there should not be any political interference in the temple affairs, indicates that there has been political interference. It is an indirect hint to the state government. To say the least, the government is not aware of its duty and responsibility. At least, it should take note of this veiled warning of the Gajapati king and do the needful to bring the situation under control,” he told the media.
He also said that the allegation of the Gajapati king that a group of persons are behind all irregularities in the temple and the government has failed to take proper action against them is a clear indication of the failure and gross apathy of the government in handling the temple affairs.
Utkal Bharat president Kharavela Swain also jumped on to the bandwagon and lambasted the Naveen Patnaik government.
“I don’t understand why the state government is poking its nose in the affairs of the temple. India is a secular state where the government has no business to interfere in any temple affairs. Can the state government ever interfere in the affairs of a mosque or a church in the manner in which it interfered in the Brahma Parivartan rituals in the Shri Jagannath temple?” he asked.
However, BJD spokesperson Amar Prasad Satpathy said the state government was not interfering in the affairs of the temple. However, he agreed that it has the responsibility to oversee timely conduct of each ritual.
The BJD on the other hand has accused both the BJP and the Congress of politicizing the issue to gain political mileage out of the situation.
“The attempt by the BJP and Congress to politicize the issue to gain political mileage is highly condemnable and unfortunate. The government’s prime objective is the smooth conduct of the Nabakalebara and Rath Yatra of the Lords. The government is taking all steps required for it. We request the BJP to refrain from attempting to play with the sentiments of the people. Today’s press meet is a clear statement of politicizing the issue,” said BJD spokesperson and Nimapara MLA Sameer Das.