The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday declared that it would make the killing of a senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati a poll issue in Orissa.
Launching the election campaign for the party in Bhubaneswar, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj blamed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the murder of the VHP leader.
"Though there was a threat to the life of Saraswati, the Naveen Patnaik government failed to give him protection," she charged.
She also blamed Patnaik for his failure to arrest the killers of the VHP leader.
"Those who should have been behind the bars are moving scot free and our workers are in jail," she said, appealing to people to vote for a party that would arrest the killers of Saraswati.
The VHP leader and four of his aides were killed on Aug 23 last year in Kandhamal district, about 200 km from in Bhubaneswar. The murder triggered widespread violence against Christians in the state, especially in Kandhamal.
Terming the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government as "betrayer", Swaraj told a gathering of thousands at the 'Vijay Sankalp' (victory resolution) rally that the BJP was determined to teach the chief minister a lesson.
It was the first mass gathering by the BJP in the state after its 11-year alliance with the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik collapsed March 7.
"I have come in Bhubaneswar to tell Naveen Patnaik that people will not tolerate him and throw him out of power," Swaraj said in her speech in Hindi. Swaraj also blamed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for being soft on terrorism.
"There was a stronger law to deal with terrorism but the UPA government abolished it," Swaraj said, referring to the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Orissa will go to the polls for Lok Sabha and assembly in two phases April 16 and 23.