Two Bhartiya Janta Dal (BJD) MLAs were expelled by party president Naveen Patnaik on Thursday over charges of anti-people activities. The expelled MLAs included the owner-editor of Odiya daily Sambad, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik.
"Two MLAs have been expelled from the BJD. They are Sudhansu Sekhar Parida from Remuna and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik from Khandapada," Patnaik told reporters here. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik was earlier removed from the party’s vice-president post on September 12.
As the editor of Odia daily Sambad, he had written two signed editorials attacking his own party. He had criticised CM’s private secretary VK Pandian for allegedly exercising influence beyond his official position.
The latest action against Soumya Ranjan Patnaik comes after the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Odisha Police registered a case against him under different sections of the IPC including cheating and fraud.
To justify charges of Khandapada MLA's involvement in anti-people activities, the BJD in an official note signed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, "On an FIR by an ex-employee of Sambad newspaper, a case under Sections 506/467/468/471/420/120-B IPC has been registered against him and others by Economic Offence Wing, Odisha. Further, many ex-employees of Sambad newspaper have made similar allegations with the EOW. It is a serious case of organised bank fraud involving loans worth crores of rupees taken in the name of more than 300 employees of Sambad by using fraudulent means and forged documents."
Similarly, Remuna MLA Sudhansu Sekhar Parida has been accused of misappropriating government subsidy worth Rs 3 crore meant for farmers. The matter is being inquired into by the state vigilance following an order of the Lokayukta, the BJD press note said. Parida, however, claimed that he was not involved in any subsidy scam on basis of which Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expelled him from the party.
"I do not have any involvement in any scam as alleged. The vigilance wing is probing the case. My people in Remuna are happy with my work," Parida said. Khandapada MLA Soumya Ranjan Patnaik is yet to react to BJD's action. "Sri Sudhansu Sekhar Parida, when he was managing partner of M/s Nigamananda Associates, Balasore, in connivance with others misappropriated government subsidy meant for farmers to the tune of more than Rs 3 crore during the period from 2017-18 to 2019-20. This matter is being inquired into by the State Vigilance on the orders of the Honorable Lokayukta," the party statement said.
Soumya Ranjan Patnaik was the fourth BJD MLA to be charged with "anti-people activities" by the party. The first in the list was Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi, who was arrested and jailed before being expelled from the BJD. The second lawmaker was Prashant Jagde, MLA from Chilika, and Sudhansu Sekhar Parida was third in the list. The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) under the crime branch of Odisha Police had raided the office of Sambad, owned by Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, over the alleged loan fraud.
The investigating agency has claimed that it has seized "credible" documents including loan/bank related papers.
"The loan in name of its employees by Sambad and Eastern Media Limited is a well thought of conspiracy and organised bank fraud," the EOW said in a statement. Meanwhile, Opposition BJP and Congress have strongly criticised the ruling BJD over its action against the Sambad editor.
"There is no democracy in BJD and the regional party is run in an autocratic manner. Soumya Babu was expelled from the party without being issued any showcause notice," BJP veteran and leader of the opposition JN Mishra told reporters. Mishra expressed surprise over BJD action as Soumya Ranjan Patnaik had penned some editorial columns as an editor and not as a legislator. "As far I know, an editor of a leading daily should not be accountable to any political party," he said.
Similarly, Congress MLA Suresh Routray said the BJD had made Soumya Ranjan Patnaik a "hero" by expelling him from party for accusing a secretay-level officer who allegedly spent crores of rupees making whirlwind tours of the state on a chopper. OPCC president Sarat Pattnayak said the expulsion of two MLAs from the party indicates the beginning of BJD's downfall. "There are many tainted leaders in the ruling party," he said.
(With inputs from agencies)