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Verbal Duel Over Srimandir

Puri: Firebrand Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi and Puri Parliamentarian Pinaki Mishra entered into a verbal duel over digging of huge pits close to Shree Jagannath Temple here allegedly without proper permission of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

While Ms.Sarangi claimed that the State Government carried out big construction by digging 30 feet deep pits in the restricted zone without permission of ASI, Mr.Mishra countered her saying that no rules are violated in the Heritage Corridor Project.

Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra had earlier claimed that the corridor project is being carried out with “coordination” with the ASI.

Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Dibyasingha Deb also clarified that there is no threat to the 12th century shrine due to the corridor project.  

Though the opposition BJP maintained a distance from the corridor row, Ms.Sarangi on Wednesday marched to the holy city with BJP supporters despite the local administration putting restrictions on the padayatra by a local outfit.

Ms.Sarangi was scheduled to participate in the pada Jatra, which was not allowed by the administration on the ground of law and order situation.

Ms.Sarangi, who on Tuesday had announced that she would visit Puri to have ‘darshan’ of the Trinity – Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath, as a devotee.

However, when Ms.Sarangi reached near Chandanpur, she was intercepted by police which requested her to either go alone or with a few supporters for darshan of Lord Jagannath.

Ms.Sarangi refused the police request and preferred to go on a walk to Puri following which they were allowed to use government vehicles to reach Puri town. They got down at the Medical Chhak of Puri and started a pada Jatra for 1.5 kilometers to reach the shrine.

Annoyed over the District Administration’s restrictions on her visit to Puri, BJP MP wanted to know the reason behind the government’s fear if there are no irregularities done. She raised questions on the transparency in implementation of the corridor project. 

“Which engineer or structural expert gave the idea to dig up to 30 feet close to the temple for construction of a few toilets? We need the ASI to respond. Transparency is missing. We are only worried about the temple’s safety,” Ms.Sarangi told Media in front of the Lion’s Gate.

On the denial of permission to her visit, Ms.Sarangi said: “Permission is not required for darshan of Mahaprabhu Shree Jagannath. If the Odisha government is on the right path, why is it so afraid?”

Stating that she has raised the issue in Lok Sabha, Ms.Sarangi said this is not a party programme and workers of all parties have assembled on their own.

She said even Puri MP Pinaki Mishra is not aware about the corridor project and therefore, he told the Lok Sabha that only three toilets are being constructed in the prohibited zone of the temple. “When the Puri MP has no clue about the construction work, how will the common people of Odisha know about it. All the Odia have the right and responsibility for the safety and security of Srimandir and the government is answerable to them,” pointed out Ms.Sarangi.

The senior BJP leader also put a question mark on transparency of the state government.

Puri’s BJD MP Pinaki Mishra took no time to counter BJP MP and accused her of doing politics in the name of Lord Jagannath. “Being a former bureaucrat, how can she think that the government and all officers concerned would do anything without necessary approval? Everything has been done in consonance with rules, regulations and the law,” Mr.Mishra said.

Mr.Mishra also alleged that Sarangi has been trying to create her own space in the party by making politics in the name of Lord Jagannath. “No one has succeeded by dragging Lord Jagannath into politics,” he said.

The Puri MP, who is also a lawyer in the Supreme Court, said: “The Orissa High Court has already conducted two hearings in the matter. Had there been irregularities, would it not have given a stay order?”

On Ms.Sarangi’s remark that he was unaware of the corridor project, BJD MP threw an open challenge to Bhubaneswar MP to come for an open debate on the issue.

Ms.Sarangi had said: “I respect Mr.Mishra as a senior Parliamentarian”.

The Bhubaneswar MP also denounced Gajapati Maharaja’s clarification that the temple is safe. “I don’t want to comment on Gajapati Maharaj’s statements. We support development and beautification, but we need to know the ASI’s opinion,” she said.