Odisha Elections 2024: V K Pandian Gaffe Adds Fuel To BJP’s Odia Asmita Plank

Sambalpur: A ‘slip of tongue’ landed BJD leader V K Pandian in an awkward situation while he was firing salvoes at Union minister and BJP MP candidate for Sambalpur Dharmendra Pradhan over his contribution to Odisha in the last 10 years.

Addressing a rally in Sambalpur, Pandian committed the embarrassing gaffe while mentioning names of eminent personalities of the region and questioning what the BJP had done for them. He wrongly addressed ‘Swabhaba Kabi’ Gangadhar Meher as ‘Santha Kabi’ and Santha Kabi Bhima Bhoi as only ‘Kabi’, giving fuel to the BJP’s ‘Odia Asmita’ or Odia pride plank.

While Sambalpur BJD MLA candidate Rohit Pujari, who was present on the dais, termed it ‘a slip of tongue’, Odisha BJP unit president Manmohan Samal told the media that “it is not a printing mistake… it is a cognizable offence…”

Launching a scathing attack on Dharmendra, Pandian had questioned the former’s contribution to development of Sambalpuri dialect, and its culture. “Koshali language is the identity of Sambalpur. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote five times to the Centre for its inclusion in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution. Why did it not happen despite your party being in power for 10 years?” he asked.

“What has the Union Minister done to promote Sambalpuri saree in the last 10 years? Weavers are backbone of the economy of the region and the CM has announced several packages for them. Despite being a cabinet minister, he could not set up a textile park here. The CM has set up a museum, Kala Bhoomi, dedicated to Odisha handlooms. He also built Krushi Bhawan, featuring a distinctive brick façade inspired by Ikat patterns of Sambalpuri sarees, and the building also won Global Architecture Award,” he said.

Talking about eminent personalities – Veer Surendra Sai, Gangadhar Meher, Bhima Bhoi and Parbati Giri – of the region, the BJD leader said that Naveen has spent crores of rupees on their memorials and also named state schemes after them. “You call yourself the son of the soil, but what have you done for them?” he asked.

Pandian also accused the Centre of taking sides with Chhattisgarh in Mahandi water sharing issue and indulging in vote-bank politics. “The Centre was against formation of the Manhandi tribunal, and the Union Minister had a role in it. He worked against the interest of the farmers of the region,” he alleged.

He further alleged that the Centre moved the Supreme Court to stall SAMALEI project in Sambalpur. “Your MP candidate Pranab Prakash Das stayed here for days together to ensure that this dream project of the CM sees the light of the day,” he said.

The bureaucrat-turned-politician also questioned the delay in repairing Cuttack-Sambalpur road, which has turned into a deathtrap. “The CM, on the other hand, completed the 250-km-long Biju Expressway from Bargarh to Kalahandi road within a short period of time,” he said.

He came down heavily on the BJP-led central government for imposing GST on ‘poor’ Kendu leaf plucker. “The BJP had promised to roll back the tax during bypolls, but failed to do so. The CM, however, is returning the GST amount with big packages for them,” he said.

Pandian further said the CM has transformed all school in Sambalpur district under the 5T initiative. “Despite being the Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister, he failed to set up any educational institutions or skill development centre in Sambalpur in the last 10 years,” he alleged.

Blaming Centre for its step-motherly attitude towards Odisha, he said that the former is getting Rs 27,000 crore  from Mahanadi Coalfields every year and the state only Rs 4,000 crore. “Is it fair?” he asked.

Pandian added that he is hoping to get a reply to his questions by the evening.


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