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2-min read

Senior BJD Leader Questions Odisha Minister on Agricultural Issues. The Reply Leaves Him Red-faced

Sparring between Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari and seven-time MLA Pradeep Maharathy on the issue of agriculture has given the Opposition BJP and Congress an opportunity to attack the regional party.

Anand ST Das | News18

Updated:July 18, 2019, 11:59 PM IST
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Senior BJD Leader Questions Odisha Minister on Agricultural Issues. The Reply Leaves Him Red-faced
Representative image (Reuters)
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Bhubaneswar: The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which returned to power in Odisha for a record fifth consecutive term in May this year, has been in an unenviable situation in the state Assembly for two days now. Thanks to two senior leaders of the party.

Sparring between Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari and seven-time MLA Pradeep Maharathy on the issue of agriculture has given the Opposition BJP and Congress an opportunity to attack the regional party.

Maharathy in the Assembly said that he has not eaten since the time he heard Pujari’s reply to his question in the House on Wednesday. “I was so shocked by the answer that I could not eat anything,” said Maharathy, who served as agriculture minister between 2014 and 2019.

Maharathy, who has been representing the coastal constituency Pipili since 1985, had tried to corner the government by asking a question about the cold storages and the potato mission in the state. Replies by Pujari in absence of food supplies and consumer welfare minister Ranendra Pratap Swain embarrassed Maharathy.

“I only want to specifically know from the honourable minister about the number of multi-purpose cold storages in our state at present, the number of processing units that have been established and how many of them are lying defunct,” Maharathy asked in the Assembly on Wednesday.

Pujari replied: “There are a total of 128 cold storages in the state. Of them, 80 became defunct during his period (of ministership). Forty-eight cold storages are functioning at present”.

Maharathy also said that since Odisha’s current potato production at 2.7 MT per year remains far below the annual requirement of 12 MT, the state has to depend on potato imported from the neighbouring state of West Bengal.

“The potato mission in Odisha had started during his (Maharathy’s) period and it ended in failure also during his period. The department is trying to revive the mission,” replied Pujari, prompting Maharathy to voice his disagreement.

Maharathy spoke in the Assembly on Thursday and demanded expunction of Pujari’s replies to his questions from the Assembly’s record. While a decision on it was yet to be taken by Speaker Surya Narayan Patro, the Opposition BJP and Congress legislators protested against the demand. Maharathy later told journalists that he had actually revived many defunct cold storages and expanded the area under potato cultivation.

“If a minister states inaccurate facts and figures in the Assembly, such statements are expunged from the records. But the minister has issued a statement in full knowledge of the facts and with total confidence,” said senior BJP legislator Jayanarayan Mishra.

Senior Congress MLA Taraprasad Bahinipati said: “An expunction will be against the law. What the minister has said in the Assembly is the statement of the government. His statement was based on the records available with the government. Pradeep Maharathy’s protests have no meaning unless a probe takes place to ascertain when and how the cold storages turned defunct”.

Pujari, sensing a controversy in the making, declined to speak on the issue to journalists on Thursday.

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