Bhubaneswar: Even as his partymen were
opposed to Rahul Gandhi`s proposed visit to Niyamgiri area
where Vedanta is planning a mining project, Orissa Chief
Minister Naveen Patnaik said Congress leader is free to
tour any place.
"It is entirely up to him (Rahul) to go where he
pleases," Patnaik told reporters here.
Patnaik`s statement on Rahul`s visit on August 26 came
a day after Kalahandi district unit of ruling BJD announced
its decision to oppose the Congress leader`s visit.
"We will oppose Rahul`s visit," BJD`s Kalahandi
district president Balabhadra Majhi had said yesterday, adding
that the Congress leader must clarify on what UPA government
had done for the tribals.
Rahul Gandhi`s visit was considered as "totally
political" in wake of the Saxena panel recommendation against
the proposed mining by Vedanta at Niyamgiri.
The Congress leader during his earlier visit in March,
2008 had said he was opposed to mining activities at Niyamgiri
hills, ecologically sensitive area in eastern ghat.
While supporting Dangaria Kandha and Kutia Kandha, who
had been opposing proposed mining, Rahul Gandhi had then (in
2008) said that he would be their (tribe`s) soldier at New
Now that Saxena panel had given adverse remark against
mining proposal at Niyamgiri, Rahul`s visit was likely to
strengthen green activists movement against the state
government, one of the partners of the joint venture (JV) with
Vedanta to begin bauxite exploration.
Even senior ministers in the Naveen Patnaik cabinet,
finance minister Prafulla Ghadai and agriculture minister
Damodar Rout, had openly opposed Rahul`s visit describing it
as "politically motivated."