Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Naveen Patnaik failed to shield his minister any longer. Mr. Rabi Narayan Nanda, Minister of State for Water Resources resigned after the Opposition refused to relent on its demand for his resignation.
Nanda was named by the Judicial Commission that enquired into the 2001 hooch tragedy that had concussed Puri reminding people of a similar tragedy experienced in Cuttack during the regime of Naveen’s father Biju Patnaik.
The enquiry report was submitted to the State Government in the month of December, 2005. But instead of placing the report before the Assembly, attempts were being made to hush it up.
Alarmed at the mischief on anvil, the Opposition placed a copy of the enquiry commission report in the House and demanded that the Minister named by the commission of enquiry as a possible collaborator of the liquor mafia must resign.
The demand gathered instant momentum as the State is in the midst of shock waves due to death of more than 30 people in the latest hooch tragedy in the Ganjam district. Excise officers, hand-in-glove with clandestine operators of illicit liquor trade, were posing a threat to normal life in the district and hence the Collector of the district had been harping on their transfer. The Excise Minister Kalandi Behera was shielding the said officers notwithstanding an instruction from even the Chief Minister for their transfer. The Opposition had taken up that issue when eventually the question of the earlier tragedy arose. To the Opposition it was clear that the Government was helping the mafia. Resignation of the excise minister Mr. Kalandi Behera for having sided with the hooch mafia that promoted dance of death in Ganjam as well as of the water resources minister Rabi Narayan Nanda, who was named as a co-perpitrator of the Puri hooch tragedy by the fact finding judicial commission, became crux of Opposition demand in the House.
Nanda precipitated the crisis by trying to win over the Opposition. His negotiatory versions were captured into records by the Congress members who handed over the same to the Speaker, as, according to them, placing thereof in the floor of the House could be more damaging to the faith of the people in democracy, and left the issue to his parliamentary wisdom, while insisting that unless the Minister resigns, they would prefer to seek the collective wisdom of the Assembly by placing the records on the table the next day.
The Speaker took rounds of discussion with Nanda and the stalement in the House continued.
Finally adjourned for the day without transacting scheduled business, the House remained a stunned witness to unprecedented perplexity in the treasury side over the issue. That the Government was in severe shock was clear from staying away of the Chief Minister from the floor when the Opposition was insisting upon action against two of his cabinet colleagues. The situation was so very embarassing for the Government that the well guarded chamber of the Chief minister was considered better a place for stock taking that his Assembly chamber.
The Chief Minister took several rounds of discussion with his colleagues in the Secretariat and when the night was entering into opacity, Minister Nanda resigned.
What happens to Mr. Behera will perhaps be clear before the Sun sets tomorrow.
But as on now, the Opposition has registered a clear victory.