PARADIP: The fissures in the ruling BJD were out in the open at the inauguration of Kalinga Baliyatra here on Sunday. The festival celebrating the maritime trade of the State with South-East Asia was inaugurated by Cooperation and Excise Minister Damodar Rout even as Revenue Minister Bijayashree Routray and Higher Education Minister Pradeep Kumar Panigrahi preferred to stay away from the event allegedly due to intra-party conflict.
Sources said, the two Ministers had committed to attend as chief guest and chief speaker but did not turn up. Two MLAs Chiranjib Biswal and Prasant Muduli too did not attend.
On the other hand, continuous non-participation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the last four years has stolen the charm of the festival and the crowd dwindle. Though the organisers are celebrating silver jubilee this year and the event coincides with Biju birth centenary, empty seats at the venue pointed to the widening tussle between the BJD leaders and their supporters as well.
In 2013, Naveen was slated to inaugurate the function but he refrained as a mark of solidarity with cyclone and flood affected people of the State. Routray was to inaugurate but as he failed to turn up, local MLA Damodar Rout inaugurated it. In 2014 too, Naveen did not attend the function and last year too he refused to attend the function following which Rout inaugurated the festival. Like previous years, Naveen expressed his reluctance to attend the festival this time too for some reason.
It may be recalled that former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik had started the Kalinga Baliyatra in 1992 with an aim to revive the maritime trade. The focus was on developing Odisha as a tourist destination for the South-East Asian countries. Addressing the gathering, Rout said Kalinga Baliyatra is the symbol of age-old traditional, cultural and economic relationship with Balidweep, now Indonesia. He lauded the efforts of organisers for keeping up the glory by organising such a grand festival.
Among others, MP Kulamani Samal, MLA Rajshree Mallick, Chairman of Paradip Port Trust (PPT) Rinkesh Ray attended and Collector Yamini Sarangi attended. Gramshree Mela and other cultural events would be the major attractions. Due to ban of denomination of `500 and `1000 and unavailability of other currencies in other denominations, the number of vendors opening shops was also less. The festival will conclude on November 20.