When it comes to campaign in support of the candidates of his party, Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik leaves no stone unturned. And these days he is out to use all types methods to overcome the Pipli controversy and help his party nominees win the forthcoming panchayat polls.
Mr. Patnaik, whose party has been winning polls since its formation 14 years ago, started developing worries recently when his government faced mounting criticism from various quarters in the wake of the alleged gangrape and physical assault on a Dalit girl in Pipli Assembly constituency in November last.
Under pressure, Mr. Patnaik asked Pipli legislator Pradeep Maharathy to step down as Agriculture Minister on “moral grounds” when various opposition parties, women's organisations and social activists came together under the banner of Odisha Gana Samaj demanding a CBI probe into the Pipli case.
As criticism continued to mount, the BJD government dismissed the then Inspector-incharge of Pipli police station and also shifted the Superintendent of Police of Puri to another place.
The opposition criticism, however, has not ended so far as the Chief Minister was yet to concede to the demand for transfer of the investigation of the Pipli case from the Crime Branch to the CBI.
In fact, Mr. Patnaik had taken all possible measures by announcing a series of pro-poor schemes for women as well as sops for various sections of the society much before the announcement of the panchayat poll schedule. He had also announced a scheme for construction of 300 small bridges across the State with a targeted budget of Rs.1,000 crore.
An advertisement campaign was also carried out for several days before the State Election Commission brought the model code of conduct for panchayat polls into force. Almost all newspapers were issued advertisements highlighting the main features of various developmental programmes.
But the Pipli controversy came as a surprise in the first week of this month when opposition parties started criticising the Chief Minister for the alleged negligence on the part of the Pipli police, who had not bothered to register a case on complaint about the alleged gang rape and assault on the Dalit girl in November last year. Mr. Patnaik holds the Home portfolio. Further, more incidents of alleged gang rape and harassment of women in different parts of the State also put the government in a spot.
Mr. Patnaik, however, continues to campaign for his party nominees in different districts to make his party win a majority of the Zilla Parishad seats in next month's polls despite all odds. A weak opposition may finally help him achieve the target.