The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) arrest of three Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders for their alleged involvement in Odisha’s biggest deposit scam is proving to be a tough challenge for chief minister Naveen Patnaik, a party member told HT on Monday.
The investigating agency arrested MLA Prabhat Tripathy on October 31 and Mayurbhanj MP Ramachandra Hansda and former MLA Subarna Naik on November 4 for their alleged involvement in the scam estimated by state police and crime branch to go up to Rs 4,373 crore. All three were suspended from the party.
“The CBI has registered cases against 44 chit fund companies. If two BJD MLAs are booked in each case, the party is doomed,” a senior party leader said.
The government ordered an inquiry into the multi-crore scam as soon as it was exposed in 2012. However, in May this year, the Supreme Court ordered a CBI inquiry after activists approached it, saying investigation was not being done properly.
They also alleged the scam was much bigger and ran up to `20,000 crore, with the Bhubaneswar-based Seashore Group being the biggest player. The CBI took Seashore CEO Prasant Dash on a 12-day remand on November 10.
BJD chief Naveen Patnaik tried to distance the party from the recent arrests in the case that is proving to be his toughest test since taking over as chief minister in 2000.
“It is a matter of individuals and nothing to do with the party or the government,” he said.
However, Patnaik will find it difficult to downplay the party’s role in the scam. Seashore Group has signed dozens of MoUs with the government.
“The probe has dented the BJD’s image considerably,” said a senior party leader.
The opposition has gone all out to cash in on the arrests.
“By the time the CBI completes the probe, several BJD leaders will go to jail and the party will collapse like a pack of cards,” said BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari.