Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

“Politics is like a race horse. A good jockey must know how to fall with the least possible damage”, had said Edouard Herriot.

For the Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly Mr. Maheswar Mohanty as well as for his antagonist in his home town of Puri Mr. Uma Ballav Rath politics is, no doubt, a race horse, but neither of them looks like a good jockey. Consequently both of them face possible damage.

Chapter IV(1) of the Code of Conduct enforced by the State Election Commission on 26.12 2006 for the Panchayat elections of 2007 had imposed restrictions on use of Government vehicles for electioneering. It is therein stipulated that “under no circumstances (Ministers, Govt. Chief Whip, Deputy Chief Whip and Leader of Opposition and others who are provided with official perquisites and transport) shall use official machinery or personnel or transport for election campaign directly or indirectly”.

Speaker Maheswar Mohanty has allegedly contravened this restriction and therefore, has attracted penal action.

An official vehicle bearing Registration number OR 02 R 4949 is allotted to Mohanty under protocol duty. Its driver is a government servant.

This vehicle, while allegedly transporting electioneering literatures of BJD, the party of the Chief Minister’s family sycophants, to which Mohanty belongs, was followed from Bhubaneswar and intercepted at Chandanpur of Puri district by former MLA and his antagonist Uma Ballav Rath.

Precipitating a confrontation between local followers of both Mohanty and Rath, it roused the officialdom into action and the S.D.O. of Puri Sadar, who happens to be the Returning Officer, filed a complaint in the Chandanpur Police Station leading to institution of Case No. 19/07 under Sec.188 of Indian Penal Code. But the case looked like self-defeating inasmuch as vital information on the involved vehicle was not included in the case records. Smelling a rat, the Election Commission has handed over the investigation to the Crime Branch.

Mohanty, on his part, after knowing of the case at Chandanpur, asked his Secretariat to enquire into the alleged use of the official vehicle and report. Technically he may be right because he has every right to order for such an inquiry. But he has failed to apprise the people as yet of what steps he has taken thereafter against the person who drove this vehicle overloaded with his party propaganda materials and his steno who was found in the said vehicle accompanying the driver.

On the other hand, Mr. Rath has also attracted the needle of suspicion towards himself. How could know that the particular vehicle was carrying the particular printed materials? Why he followed it till Chandanpur where his supporters were waiting in large numbers? Has he cooked up the entire conspiracy against Mohanty against whom he has been fighting unsuccessful battles?

Nothing is impossible. There is reason to suspect that he is capable of manufacturing scenarios against rivals. As for example, when he was a member of Orissa Assembly, he had developed personal animosity with an eye surgeon of Puri Destrict Hearqrs Hospital, Dr. Bana Behari Mohanty. All on a sudden he raised an allegation that Dr. Mohanty had stolen eyes of a poor lady patient that caused her death. He even went on alleging that Dr. Mohanty had offered him bribe not to raise the issue in the Assembly. There was tumultuous debate over the issue in the Assembly and a Commission of Enquiry was constituted with Rabindra Mohan Senapati at the head to find out facts. Rath did not substantiate his allegation and the commission reported that it was not true that the eyes as alleged were stolen.

Against this backdrop, it will not be surprising if some one suspects that the driver and steno of the Speaker were gained over by Rath and used to use the official vehicle of the Speaker in transporting BJD electioneering materials, printing whereof in any press by anybody is not impossible.

such a suspicion has led the Crime Branch to interrogate Rath on how of everybody he alone could know of the so called illegal cargo and how it is that his supporters had congregated in so large numbers at Candanpur to seize the vehicle?

And, perhaps from this, the dark side of power politics the commissionists are playing may manifest.

What would be the manifestation is viewable in future.

But the moment’s syllogism suggests that both Mohanty and Rath are bad jockeys that do not know how to fall with minimum possible damage even as the scenario strongly suggests how Panchayat elections have become farcical in Orissa and polluted.

The sooner the culprit is found out and punished, the better it would be for democracy. But is the Government run by Navin Patnaik fit for expediting process of law? I have my qualified doubts. But you are free to stick to your own opinion.

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