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Cong demands CM clarification on BJD support to Vaishnav

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Press Trust of India Bhubaneswar
Odisha Assembly Wednesday was adjourned several times as the opposition Congress members created a ruckus demanding a clarification from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on ruling BJD's support to BJP nominee Ashwini Vaishnav for the Rajya Sabha elections.
The issue was raised by Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra who accused Vaishnav, a former IAS officer, of being hand in glove with the mining mafia as well as a beneficiary of discretionary quota (DQ) scam in Odisha.
Vaishnav, who was in the assembly premises to enquire about his candidature for the Rajya Sabha polls, said, "I have nothing to hide. I will tell many things. But let the election process be over."

Asked about the vigilance probe against him in the DQ scam as alleged by the Congress, Vaishnav said, "Let there be a probe into all the allegations. I am insisting on investigation because the allegations are false."

Inside the House, Mishra asked how Vaishnav's candidature will help protect the interest of the state.
He said Vaishnav was among the 1197 persons who were benefited in the DQ scam - "illegal" allotment of land to influential persons in the state.
A task force headed by former IAS officer Taradutta investigated the DQ scam and made some recommendations to the government which, in turn, directed the vigilance in 2017 to take action based on the recommendations.
"Will the chief minister inform this House that the vigilance has exonerated Vaishnav in the DQ case?" Mishra asked adding that the CM alwyas talks of transparency and zero tolerance towards corruption.
Mishra claimed he has documents to show how many mining scams Vaishnav is involved.
He said, "Shah Commission report will speak for itself. CBI investigation was proposed. Why the NDA government did not order a CBI investigation into mining scam in last 5 years?"

The MB Shah Commission that enquired the illegal mining cases of Odisha had recommended CBI probe into it in 2014.
The Congress veteran also criticised the BJP for making Vaishnav its candidate. "The BJP has no moral right to claim to be the opposition party in Odisha because it is hand in glove with the BJD," Mishra said.
Another Congress member Santosh Singh Saluja also attacked the BJP over the mining scam.
While demanding a ruling from the Chair on the chief minister's clarification over the matter, Congress members led by Tara Prasad Bahinipati rushed to well of the House and shouted anti-government and anti-speaker slogans. They too gave slogan on BJD-BJP nexus.
Unable to run the House, Speaker S N Patro adjourned the proceeding at least for five times before holding an all-party meeting to end the deadlock.
Outside the House later, both the BJD and the BJP defended Vaishnav.
Senior BJD MLA Debi Prasad Mishra said, "If there is any allegation against Vaishnav, the returning officer or the Election Commission will verify it. They will check whether or not Vaishnav's candidature is valid."

Leader of Opposition and senior BJP leader Pradipta Naik said, "It is the Congress's design to defame a person. Congress leaders are speaking against Vaishnav only to get themselves in the news."

The ruling BJD on June 21 announced Amar Patnaik and Sasmit Patra as its candidates for the Rajya Sabha by-polls in Odisha and said it will support BJP nominee Ashiwini Vaishnav for the third seat.
Shortly after the BJP named Vaishnav, who was private secretary to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as its candidate for the July 5 Rajya Sabha bypolls, BJD chief Naveen Patnaik announced his party's support to him.
Patnaik agreed to offer BJD's support to Vaishnav after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a request.

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First Published: Jun 26 2019 | 8:25 PM IST

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