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BJP faces embarrassment in Odisha over recent arrests of its leaders

At least 17 people, including a newly-inducted BJP leader, have been arrested so far in connection with the murder of Laxmidutta Pradhan, a ruling Biju Janata Dal youth leader and councillor of Chhatrapur Notified Area Council.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2017 18:34 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
BJP,Odisha,Bhubaneswar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP’s national president Amit Shah at the party's national executive meet in Bhubaneswar in April 2017. (PTI)

The arrests of a string its leaders has embarrassed the resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party amid the saffron organisation’s mounted protests against chief minister Naveen Patnaik ahead of assembly election in Odisha in 2019.

The president of tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district’s Baripada unit was arrested over a fraudulent land deal on Sunday night, a month after a spokesperson of the party in the eastern state was questioned over sheltering a murder accused.

Krushna Chandra Mahapatra was arrested from Cuttack town after a city court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, Bhubaneswar’s deputy commissioner of police Satyabrata Bhoi said.

A woman had lodged a case in a local police station in 2012 alleging Mahapatra defrauded her of about Rs 1 crore in a land deal. She said Mahapatra sold the land to her using forged papers even though he had already sold it to another person.

The woman demanded her money back after she got to know about the previous deal. Mahapatra gave her a cheque but it bounced.

The party’s spokesperson Golak Mahapatra was questioned twice by the police in Ganjam district earlier this month over allegations that he helped the mastermind of a murder stay in a government guesthouse in the BJP-ruled Uttarakhand.

At least 17 people, including a newly-inducted BJP leader, have been arrested so far in connection with the murder of Laxmidutta Pradhan, a ruling Biju Janata Dal youth leader and councillor of Chhatrapur Notified Area Council (NAC).

Ganjam’s superintendent of police Ashish Kumar Singh said it was wrong on anyone’s part to impute a motive to the interrogation of Mahapatra.

“We are strictly going by the evidence we have. We would take action based on further evidence that we get,” said Singh.

Three days ago another BJP leader was arrested over illegally trading in explosive substances such as gelatin sticks, sulphur powder, and ammonium nitrate in the Maoist-infested Bolangir district.

BJP’s Kantabanji Mandal president Murari Lal Agarwal and his son Mahesh Agarwal were arrested along with a trader over the illegal trading of explosives. Agarwal’s licence to trade in explosives expired in 2010.

The BJP expelled Agarwal from the party soon after his arrest.

Similarly, a leader of the party’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha was arrested in Boudh district early this month over his alleged involvement in a ponzi scam.

Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s Boudh unit president Narayan Karmi was arrested over his alleged involvement in a ponzi scam. Karmi collected money from investors assuring them to double their investments in three years through a dubious company, Go Life Trading Pvt Ltd.

The cheated investors lodged a police complaint after Karmi could not pay back the invested money.

The arrests have come months after the party’s impressive performance in the zila parishad elections this year as it won 197 of the 853 seats.

The BJP, which has set an ambitious target of winning 120 seats in the 147-membered Odisha assembly, has called the arrests a “political witchhunt”.

“The arrest of Mahapatra is [in connection with] an old dispute in their family and police has selectively acted in this case. Similarly, in several other cases, the police is trying to browbeat our leaders and workers as the BJP is gaining popularity. We are not scared of Naveen Patnaik’s police,” said state BJP chief Basant Panda.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 18:34 IST