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Senior BJD MLA arrested for thrashing poll officials

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The Puri district police in Odisha on Monday arrested Pradip Maharathy, a senior ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator and former minister, for severely beating up members of a flying squad of the Election Commission (EC) in his farmhouse at Pipli, about 20 km from here.

The senior leader is a six-time sitting MLA from Pipli which is scheduled to go to polls in the third phase of the polling in the state on Tuesday. He is contesting the polls this time too. Maharathy’s arrest has become a major embarrassment for Naveen Patnaik led ruling regional outfit on the eve of the third phase of elections.

Police sources said, a few other associates of the former minister who were also involved in the incident will be nabbed soon. The leader of the flying squad, a magistrate level official, had to be hospitalized after he was allegedly thrashed by Maharathy and his men. Two police officials accompanying the magistrate and a videographer had also sustained injuries. The incident took place late on Sunday night when the flying squad was conducting a raid on the former minister’s farmhouse. “He has been arrested on the basis of sufficient evidence against him”, Puri Superintendent of Police(SP), Uma Shankar Das said.

Just before his arrest, Maharathy issued a statement acknowledging the incident. He said, the flying squad members forcibly entered into his farmhouse after breaking the lock around midnight which led to an argument and scuffle between them and his security staff. “I am shocked and saddened over the incident”, he said.

The senior leader is having a habit of courting controversies. Just a few months back, he had to tender his resignation from the state cabinet following an uproar by women groups and opposition parties over his remarks on a rape case in his constituency. He was holding important portfolios of Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water, Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment besides Fisheries and Animal Resources Development.

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