Even as his partymen were opposed to Rahul Gandhi's proposed visit to Niyamgiri area where Vedanta is planning a mining project, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday said Congress leader is free to tour any place.
"It is entirely up to him (Rahul) to go where he pleases," Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
Patnaik's statement on Rahul's visit on August 26 came a day after Kalahandi district unit of ruling BJD announced its decision to oppose the Congress leader's visit.
"We will oppose Rahul's visit," BJD's Kalahandi district president Balabhadra Majhi had said yesterday, adding that the Congress leader must clarify on what UPA government had done for the tribals.
Rahul Gandhi's visit was considered as "totally political" in wake of the Saxena panel recommendation against the proposed mining by Vedanta at Niyamgiri.
The Congress leader during his earlier visit in March, 2008 had said he was opposed to mining activities at Niyamgiri hills, ecologically sensitive area in eastern ghat.
While supporting Dangaria Kandha and Kutia Kandha, who had been opposing proposed mining, Rahul Gandhi had then (in 2008) said that he would be their (tribe's) soldier at New Delhi.
Now that Saxena panel had given adverse remark against mining proposal at Niyamgiri, Rahul's visit was likely to strengthen green activists movement against the state government, one of the partners of the joint venture (JV) with Vedanta to begin bauxite exploration.
Even senior ministers in the Naveen Patnaik cabinet, finance minister Prafulla Ghadai and agriculture minister Damodar Rout, had openly opposed Rahul's visit describing it as "politically motivated."