‘Dependency on bureaucracy worsened Kandhamal’

Bhubaneswar: Blaming Naveen Patnaik for prolonged violence in Kandhamal after the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in 2008, senior BJP leader B B Harichandan today said the Orissa chief minister's "over dependency" on bureaucracy worsened the situation.

Deposing before the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice S C Mohapatra here, Harichandan said, "The chief minister ignored views of ministers and acted on the advice of some bureaucrats which worsened the situation in Kandhamal."

Harichandan was law and revenue minister in the Naveen Patnaik government from 2004 to 2009 during which at least 43 people were killed in violence in Kandhamal.

Claiming that he had asked the chief minister to enhance security of Saraswati who received a threat letter on August 21, 2008, Harichandan said, "I had suggested the CM to increase Saraswati's security. He did not take any action."

"Had Saraswati not been killed, there would not have been a riot in Kandhamal in 2008," he said alleging that the chief minister also did not convene a cabinet meeting to discuss the situation in the aftermath of Saraswati's killing.

Patnaik also did not hold any all party meeting on Kandhamal situation. "I had suggested to Patnaik to make political intervention in the grave situation in Kandhamal. But, he said he will look into it."

Instead of taking cabinet ministers or politicians into confidence, Patnaik chose to take suggestions from a handful of officers, the BJP leader alleged adding though the Kandhamal situation created ripples at international level, it was never discussed in the state cabinet.

"I had also told Patnaik that politicians of different parties could be helpful in controlling the riot situation in Kandhamal. However, the chief minister chose to depend on officers thus lingering the situation," Harichandan said.

The communal violence in Kandhamal continued for over a month only because of "bad handling" of the situation by the chief minister who also held home portfolio, he said.

"Harichandan was summoned by the Commission as he was a senior member of the BJD-BJP coalition government then. He replied on how the state government handled the Kandhamal situation," Justice Mohapatra told reporters.

Harichandan's deposition will continue tomorrow.

CPI state secretary Dibakar Nayak, however, during his deposition before the Commission yesterday had blamed the Sangh Parivar for the violence in Kandhamal.

"It was a state sponsored riot in Kandhamal," Nayak had told the commission.