Bhubaneswar: Accusing Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of "running away" from a discussion on self-proclaimed godman Srimad Sarathi Dev alias Santosh Kumar Roul, opposition Congress on Monday demanded a through probe into the latter's political connections.
The issue pertaining to Roul was debated in the Odisha Assembly today through an adjournment motion wherein the chief minister was supposed to reply to the House.
However, parliamentary affairs minister Bikram Keshari Arukha read out the initial statement on behalf of Patnaik and also replied to the debate as the chief minister was not present in the House.
"Why is the chief minister afraid of facing the House on the fake godman issue? He should not run away from debate. Any other minister's reply may not do justice as they cannot make any announcement on behalf of the CM," Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said while taking part in the debate.
"He (Patnaik) cannot authorise other ministers to reply on his behalf every time. As people have been exploited, cheated and looted by the fake godman, the chief minister should himself face the House," he said.
Mishra claimed that Patnaik had recommended release of Rs 1 lakh for Roul's ashram from the state's Special Problem Fund.
"How can the chief minister give funds to a fraud godman?" Mishra asked even as he sought a reply from Arukha as to whether Patnaik was unaware of Roul's activities or had knowingly extended the grant. He also demanded that Crime Branch look into how Roul got assistance from the SPF.
Citing a reply by Patnaik made in the Assembly in 2005, Mishra said he had raised a question on encroachment by an alleged "fake sadhu" in Bhubaneswar.
"The chief minister had assured that action would be taken as per the law. However, it was later found that the land dispute was settled with the encroacher. Therefore, we demand an investigation this time," he said.