It’s not the voters’ wrath in upcoming elections or pesky questions by the media. The object politicians in Odisha fear the most nowadays is innocuous: The egg.
A flurry of egg attacks on three state ministers this month by Congress workers has left the ruling Biju Janata Dal fuming. Top leaders have begun keeping tour programmes secret, changing or cancelling them at the last minute to thwart attacks.
The saga began earlier this month when some Congress student and youth wing functionaries pelted eggs at food and consumer welfare minister Sanjay Das Burma’s vehicle in Puri to protest against alleged irregularities in ration card distribution. Since then, the egg has become a potent symbol of political discontent with similar attacks on the vehicles of law minister Arun Sahu and health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak. The police are hard pressed to prevent such attacks, and have arrested several attackers under non-bailable sections, including attempt to murder.
The government has suspended security personnel in the aftermath of the incidents. The intelligence wing has also got involved, restricting sale of eggs at road side stalls during ministers’ visits. At recent government functions, people were frisked and water bottles not allowed. Policemen searched for eggs and sanitised the areas with sniffer dogs. Local TV news channels also having a field day, discussing egg politics in their studios. “Congress does not believe in violence but at the same time it reflects the growing resentment of people against the government,” said state Congress president Prasad Harichandan. But former minister and senior Congress leader Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra has backed the younger workers. “They are doing a good thing. This is a fitting protest against the government that has failed to solve the problems of common people,” he said.
As ‘fear’ over attacks looms, BJD cadre are getting restive to counter “Congress goons”.
“They (Congress workers) have crossed all limits and will be paid back in the same coin if they did not restrain themselves,” BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb said. To galvanise the cadre, the BJD has started a programme from January 15, holding workers’ meetings and making people aware of the government’s “good works” . The battle has just begun. Only time will tell which side will end up with egg on their faces.