Rift in BJD comes to fore over chit fund arrests

Fissures have come to the fore in the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha over the party’s action against senior legislator Prabhat Tripathy in the wake of his arrest by the CBI in connection with the multi-crore chit fund scam.

Tripathy, a four-time MLA and a founder member of the regional outfit, was arrested by the premier investigating agency last week for his alleged links with Artha Tatwa group, a tainted chit fund company based in Odisha. BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had suspended him from the party immediately after the arrest.    
A section of the party has already disapproved the manner in which action was taken against the senior legislator. Prominent among these leaders is another founder member of the party, Bhartruhari Mahtab, a five-time sitting Lok Sabha member from Cuttack. Tripathy represents Banki, an Assembly segment under Mahtab’s Parliament seat.

“Tripathy has done a lot for the state and the BJD. There was no need to suspend him from the party”, Mahtab who is also the BJD’s leader in the Lok Sabha told reporters a day after his party colleague’s arrest. He also lambasted the CBI and charged the investigating agency with of arresting the legislator for political reasons.

Mahtab’s remarks were immediately opposed and contested by another group within the party. “If he has anything to say he should have done it in the party forum and not through the media”, said BJD spokesperson and another senior legislator Amar Satpathy.

Pressure from the party forced Mahtab to modify his comment and he said subsequently that he had no intention of challenging the party president’s decision on the issue.

However, by that time the damage was done. Though Mahtab has changed his statement, a signature campaign has already begun within the party to put pressure on the BJD high command to withdraw Tripathy’s suspension order.

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