Bhubaneswar, July 1 (IANS) The Congress party and Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Sunday engaged in a war of words here over the candidature of former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma for the July 19 presidential election.
While the Congress accused Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik of trying to play the tribal card by projecting Sangma as a tribal candidate, the BJD accused the Congress of playing politics and not doing anything for the tribal population.
Senior state Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said at least 25 tribal people were killed in the state in police firing during the last 12 years when Naveen Patnaik has been at the helm in Odisha.
He said Patnaik has been trying to portray himself as the champion of tribals which is far from reality. “It is evident from the fact that no office-bearer of the BJD is a tribal,” Mishra said.
Mishra also accused both Patnaik and Sangma of influencing voters in the name of caste and religion. Describing it as a violation of the constitution, he warned both leaders to refrain from such acts.
“Not only the candidate, his supporters who are trying to influence voters in the name of caste and religion are also liable to be punished,” he said.
BJD vice president Damodar Rout said the allegations made by the Congress were baseless. “People know who is what,” he added. “The Congress is anti-tribal,” he added.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was the first to announce the name of Sangma in May for the country’s top post. Patnaik was also the first man to sign as a proposer on Sangma’s nomination papers.