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Local leaders avoid Kandhamal

india Updated: Oct 12, 2008 00:57 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

The anti-Christian violence in Orissa’s Kandhamal district could still not be doused, as the traditional balance of power has been upset by the recent delimitation of parliamentary and assembly constituencies.

Kandhamal — with a population of 6.48 lakh, according to the 2001 census — has one Lok Sabha and three Assembly constituencies. The present status of all seats in district headquarters Phulbani are reserved for SCs.

But after delimitation, the Phulbani Lok Sabha seat will turn into a general category constituency, and the assembly seat will be reserved for STs. So, Phulbani MP Sugrib Singh and MLA Padmanav Behera — both from the BJD — will not be allowed to contest the next polls from their own constituencies.

And this is why, Kandhamal residents said, Singh and Behera turned their back to the people of the district and did not take any pro-active steps when the violence erupted.

But Singh told HT: “Although the constituency has been made a general category seat, I’m still active. I’m attending peace committee meetings. But we have left it to the administration to deal with the issues. We are not interfering.”

Phulbani MLA Padmanav Behera said: “There is a political vacuum in Kandhamal. But it has got nothing to do with the change in the status of the constituency. Or why was my house attacked and damaged in the December riots? In my view, politics is at the root of the Kandhamal crisis.”

Residents said Behera, who was a cabinet minister till December 2007, has not visited his constituency even once after the trouble erupted. In fact, after those riots, he had quit as a minister.

Besides Phulbani, the two other Assembly seats in Kandhamal are Baliguda and Udayagiri. Both will remain reserved seats for STs after delimitation. Baliguda is represented by BJP’s Karendra Majhi and Udayagiri by Congress’s Ajayanti Pradhan.