The Odisha Assembly witnessed noisy scenes on Thursday, leading to several adjournments, as members of the opposition BJP and the Congress sought immediate dismissal of law minister Pratap Jena in connection with a double murder case, and demanded that the government declare drought in the state amid the dry spell. As soon as the House assembled at 10.30 am, on the second day of the monsoon session, BJP and Congress MLAs trooped into the well of the House shouting anti-government slogans. The saffron party members called for Jena’s immediate removal for his alleged involvement in the murder of BJP leader Kulamani Baral and his associate Dibyasingh Baral in January in Mahanga area of Cuttack district.
The Congress, on the other hand, pressed for declaration of drought in the state. The opposition members were also seen attempting to climb on to the Speaker’s podium to disrupt the proceedings. As Speaker S N Patro failed to pacify the angry members, he first adjourned the proceedings for one hour and subsequently twice till 4 pm.
He then convened an all-party meeting to resolve the issues and make the house functional. BJP deputy leader B C Sethi, opposition chief whip Mohan Majhi, Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra, Parliamentary Affairs Minister B K Arukha, government chief whip Pramila Mallick and CPI(M) member Laxman Munda were invited to the meeting.
Outside the Assembly, Majhi later told reporters, “The law minister’s name was mentioned in the FIR, but the police submitted a charge-sheet against 12 persons, excluding Jena. The court of judicial magistrate first class in Salipur has directed the police to look into his involvement in the murder of two elderly BJP leaders in Cuttack district’s Mahanga area.” Iterating his party’s demand, Majhi said that the BJP has long been seeking Jena’s removal from the ministry to facilitate a neutral investigation into the double murder case. “We will continue to stage protest in the Assembly till our demand is met with,” he maintained. Justifying the din caused by the Congress members in the well of the House, party MLA Santosh Singh Saluja said revenue and disaster management minister Sudam Marndi was yet to come up with a reply on the debate held on Wednesday over the plight of farmers in the midst of the dry spell.
State agriculture and farmers empowerment minister A K Sahoo had said in the House that the dry spell is purely natural and not man-made, and the government was taking necessary steps to mitigate the problems faced by the farmers. Saluja, however, insisted that the Congress would stick to its demand for declaration of drought in the state.
State government chief whip Pramila Mallick, on her part, stated that the BJD government was prepared to hold discussions on any issue, including drought and the double murder case. “The opposition, instead of initiating a discussion, disrupted the House proceedings without any reason,” she added.