Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party marked for foiling Valentine Day celebrations in India in the name of social conscience and morality has left it to personal conscience of its Orissa heavyweight and Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal to decide if he should resign on moral ground as the State has immersed in embarrassment due to his alleged sex escapades involving a woman he had lodged in Orissa Niwas, New Delhi during his stay there in Orissa Bhawan, in the first week of November 2008.
The woman had occupied the guesthouse room on reservation made on the requisition of Samal’s Officer on Special Duty; but it seems, the O.S.D. had acted as directed by Samal.
Ms.Sanghamitra Singh, the woman in question, has said that she has no illicit relationship with Samal.
She may be right.
But then she should blame for whatever ill publicity she has got, whatever relationship she has with Samal.
Had Samal acted as a responsible gentleman, she might never have been in the center of such a storm.
In the first place he should not have taken her to New Delhi through his O.S.D. and kept her in the Orissa Niwas while he himself was to stay in a different place at Orissa Bhawan. By keeping her in the Niwas, he kept her hidden from the eyes of the Bhawan staff, which under protocol was supposed to know if she was the Minister’s de facto guest. As such his visits to Orissa Niwas to meet her behind back of the Bhawan staff was violative of protocol besides being a security risk
But he has explained his position in a curious way. Mum on protocol point, he has tried to justify his activities on the premise of constituency interest. He was trying to help her in contacting guests for the Salandi Mahotsav that she organizes, he has said.
Now, when Ms. Singh herself says that Mr. Samal had met her in the Niwas lobby only for once and does not say anything on guest contact, the scenario sends signals that mar the Minister’s credibility further.
According to media reports, he was rescued from the room of Ms. Singh by staff members of the Niwas hours after someone had locked the door from outside in order to expose him. If there was nothing immoral in his stay there, in other words if that was really in his constituency interest, Samal should have made a complaint before the Niwas authorities immediately against the mischief and if needed, informed the Chanakyapuri Police Station seeking stern action against the miscreant. But he did not do that. If he was not thus locked up, he should have countered the report and initiated penal prosecution against the media organization for spreading such obnoxious canards. But he kept mum.
Now the massive dissimilarity between what he has stated in the Assembly and what Ms. Singh has told the Press on December 6, makes the issue murkier.
The Chief Minister compelled to make a statement in the Assembly, has relied upon the official report received from the Resident Commissioner, New Delhi to say that Samal had visited Orissa Niwas several times during the time in question. This is enough to suspect that both Mr. Samal and Ms. Singh are trying to hide the truth as otherwise their versions should never have been vitiated with such stark dissimilarities.
When the Minister has rushed to New Delhi apparently to lobby for his continuance in the coalition cabinet, Ms. Singh accompanied by a group of saffronist women has staged a demonstration before the Bhubaneswar residence of the Pradesh Congress Committee President Jayadev Jena on December 7 in protest against his harping on the sex scandal, as that has injured her social status.
Should the BJP not ask its Minister to spare the State from further embarrassment?