Odisha govt gears up for talks on hostages

Mediators to arrive in State capital by today

Former bureaucrat and activist Dr B D Sharma, one of the mediators chosen by Maoists to negotiate with the Odisha government for the release of two Italian hostages in their captivity, will be arriving on Thursday.

This was announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik late on Wednesday evening. “Dr Sharma has agreed to be a mediator and he will be arriving here tomorrow (Thursday),” Patnaik said in a statement.

Dandapani Mohanty, another negotiator chosen by the Maoists and approved by the state government, has already arrived in the state capital.

The three senior IAS officers, including Home Secretary U N Behera, selected by the state government to negotiate on its behalf, are already in the city. Therefore, the much awaited dialogue is expected to commence very shortly.

However, there is still uncertainty over the third interlocutor from the Maoists’ side. The activist, Prafulla Samantary, whose name was announced by the left wing ultras on Tuesday, has refused to take part in the negotiations.

“As Samantary has already expressed his reluctance we are waiting for the Maoist leadership to announce the name of their third mediator,” the Chief Minister said.

Patnaik further informed that he had a telephonic discussion with Italian ambassador to India on Wednesday. “He expressed his concern over the health condition of the two hostages,” Patnaik said.

Meanwhile, a blame game has already begun between ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Opposition parties.

The state unit of the Congress on Wednesday strongly criticized the chief minister for his statement accusing the Centre of non cooperation to resolve the kidnapping crisis.

Patnaik, while talking to a national TV news channel on Tuesday night, had said that he did not receive required cooperation from Union home minister P Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna. Both Chidambaram and Krishna have since denied the charge.

“How can the chief minister make such a casual statement when we are in the midst of such a big crisis?” said Congress leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Bhupinder Singh.

In fact, an all-party meeting convened by Speaker Pradip Amat on Tuesday turned out to be a damp squib after the Congress members reportedly insisted on a clarification from the chief minister on his statement against the central leaders. The important meeting was to decide on the adoption of an all party resolution in the Odisha House appealing to the Maoists for the release of the  hostages.

PC slams phone on Patnaik

The Home Ministry’s handling of the state government’s requests for help has spurred a fresh controversy, reports DHNS from New Delhi. The BJD has alleged that Home Minister P Chidambaram “banged” the phone on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday. 

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