Chorus for Odisha Tourism Minister’s ouster grows

Bhubaneswar: The Opposition parties have upped the ante against Odisha Tourism Minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi over his female friends accompanying him on an official visit to Hyderabad, where the expenses were allegedly borne by the government.

The Opposition has been baying for Panigrahi’s blood ever since the controversy surfaced.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha had to make a statement on the floor of the House in this connection where he denied the government footing the bills of the female guests.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Bishnu Sethi today lashed out at the government for giving ‘clean chit’ to the Tourism Minister.

“The government gave clean chit to the Minister. We have documentary evidence that flight tickets and hotel bookings have been done for three persons. While a Minister gave statement that there are no allegations against the Tourism Minister, we have recorded evidence that Tourism department has booked tickets for the Minister and his two female friends. We had taken oath after being elected to the Assembly that we will abide by the Constitution. As he has done anti-Constitutional act, he must tender resignation,” Sethi thundered.

The Opposition Congress too held a press conference here today apparently to mount pressure on the government over the issue.

The Congress sought reply from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the attempt to ‘hush up’ the matter.

“Naveen Patnaik chose a tainted member to reply on the issue who was embroiled in Discretionary Quota (DQ) controversy after which he had to surrender a house on his wife’s name. Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha made a statement on the floor of the House but it was incomplete. The government tried to hush up the matter,” Congress Media Wing Chairman Satya Prakash Nayak alleged.

Nayak further said that the itinerary reveals that the hotel bookings at Taj Krishna in Hyderabad have been done by a private entity i.e., FICCI. “Can the Chief Minister clarify why the Minister has availed hospitality from a private entity?” What is the quid pro quo, the Minister must clarify.

The beleaguered Minister had yesterday said “Not a single penny has been spent from government exchequer.  OTDC is open to all for booking. I haven’t violated any law.”

Panigrahi has been in the firing line of the Opposition for allegedly taking two of his female guests to Hyderabad where the expenses have been borne by the government, which has been denied by the state government.

Worth mentioning, the Minister had gone to Hyderabad on September 4 to take part in a road show at the IT City organised by Odisha Tourism.

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