Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 8:
Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) secretary and sports czar of the state Asirbad Behera has landed in a soup with his appeal to the people to vote for the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the coming election.
Sports administrators and opposition parties alike have roundly condemned the move by Behera, who has issued an advertisement in leading vernacular dailies today. Behera, who wears several hats, has issued the advertisement in his capacity as the president of the Odisha Yadav Samaj urging all those who support, follow and trust him to vote for the ‘conch’, the election symbol of the BJD.
“This is completely against the operational guidelines of OCA and the Odisha Olympic Association (OOA). Such an appeal by a senior office bearer tarnishes the image of sports bodies,” said a former OCA member requesting anonymity.
Opposition parties too have condemned the move by the all powerful OCA secretary, who also holds the post of secretary of the OOA.
“This is a gross violation of the model code of conduct. Holding as he does top positions in the Cricket and Olympic associations, Behera cannot appeal to people to vote for a particular party as he has done through an advertisement in newspapers. The Chief electoral Officer of Odisha must take serious note of it and initiate immediate action,” said former minister and senior BJP leader Biswabhushan Harichandan.
Sulochana Das, spokesperson of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee, also condemned the appeal made by Behera and said, “We will bring this to the notice of the Election Officer immediately.”
Many observers have dubbed the appeal by Behera as ‘downright casteist’. They point to the fact Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik had inaugurated the Yadav Mahasabha organised by him in Cuttack earlier this year.
“The Chief Minister’s presence in a caste gathering did nothing to enhance the progressive credentials of the Chief Minister and proved that he does not mind aligning himself with casteist elements in his single minded pursuit of votes,” said one of them.
A former Odisha cricketer not wishing to be named said , “At the root of all this is the Rajya Sabha lollipop that the ruling party supremo has been dangling before a number of aspirants who are willing to bend backwards and even crawl to keep the master happy”.