BJP's national spokesperson Patra courts controversy

Sambit Patra, BJP’s national spokesperson known for his frequent appearances on TV channels, has been courting controversies since his arrival in his home state Odisha to fight his maiden electoral battle. File photo

Sambit Patra, BJP’s national spokesperson known for his frequent appearances on TV channels, has been courting controversies since his arrival in his home state Odisha to fight his maiden electoral battle.

The saffron leader has been chosen by his party to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls from the prestigious Puri constituency.

Patra triggered a row last Tuesday for holding an idol of Lord Jagannath, one of the presiding deities of the Puri temple, using both his hands and brandishing it for public display while participating in a 60 km long motorcycle rally from capital Bhubaneswar to Puri.

A section of the servitors of the Jagannath temple was first to raise an objection saying that the popular deity should not be used for political purposes. It not only hurts the sentiments of millions of Jagannath devotees but it is also illegal, they said.

Patra explained that the small idol he was holding on his hand was gifted to him by a devotee while he was on his way to Puri.

“Like millions of Hindus, I am an ardent devotee of Lord Jagannath. It is a regular practice that when somebody gifts you the idol of the deity, you accept it using both of your hands and touch it to your head. I was just doing the same. I have not done anything wrong”, the medico-turned-politician maintained.

His explanation, however, could not satisfy the opposition parties who wasted no time bringing the matter to the notice of the authorities for action against the BJP leader. While the opposition Congress moved the election commission (EC) on the issue and submitted a memorandum to state’s chief electoral officer(CEO) in capital Bhubaneswar, the local unit of the ruling BJD registered a case in one of the police stations in Puri.

Patra had also reportedly not taken required permission from the authorities for his rally which prompted the Puri district administration to serve him a notice. He has been asked to furnish his reply within three days. The state unit of the BJP defended the national spokesperson insisting that he was not a rally. “He was on his way to Puri when supporters and admirers stopped him at one or two places to welcome him”, the BJP leaders said.

It was speculated that PM Modi will contest from the coastal constituency which ultimately went to Patra. BJD has re-nominated three-time sitting MP Pinaki Mishra to take on the BJP spokesperson.

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