PARADIP:The famous Kalinga Baliyatra has turned into an all-BJD affair with ruling party members laying siege to Biju Maidan, the venue where the eight-day festival is being held. The BJD leaders, though uninvited, are grabbing the centre-stage, while government officials, including senior police officers, elected representatives and company authorities are giving the mega event a miss.
The historic fair, a reminder of the State’s rich maritime trade and culture, was started in 1992 by the then chief minister Biju Patnaik. Ever since, leaders cutting across political parties, government and corporate officials have participated in the festival to show their support to Kalinga Baliyatra, which aims to revive Odisha’s maritime glory.
However, this year, it has become a perfect stage for local BJD leaders to grab their two minutes of glory. The stage of the fair has been found occupied by party leaders whose names did not even find a mention in the invitation cards. Such has been the state of affair that district and company officials as well as MLAs and MPs from Opposition political parties have chosen to skip the event.
On the first day, BJD leaders such as Sumant Biswal and Sambit Routray, son of Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout, shared the stage though their names did not figure in the invitation card. It triggered dissatisfaction among locals and officials alike. This became the trend with local leaders of the ruling party occupying the stage on each day of the festival.
Unhappy with the way the famous fair was hijacked by the BJD, sources said Jagatsinghpur MLA Chiranjib Biswal and Rajya Sabha member Ranjib Biswal did not turn up. The senior government officers who gave it a miss included IG (Central Range) Soumendra Priyadarshi, SP JN Pankaj, CISF Commandant Bansidhar Sundara, Deputy Chairman of PPT N Vaiyapuri, Secretary UR Mohan Raju, Sub-Collector Subash Chandra Nath Sharma and Senior General Manager of IFFCO Ashis Kumar Panda. Officials of corporate houses which contribute for the festival also complained of harassment as BJD leaders called the shots.
Moreover, large-scale irregularities have been reported in selection of guests, issue of car parking and invitation to officials besides illegal collection of money from small businessmen without receipts and misuse of funds in event management.Small businessmen, who have unofficially opened their shops to maintain their livelihood at the fair, alleged harassment at the hands of Paradip Municipality staff.
Paradip ADM Biswajit Biswal said it is difficult to issue car passes to all guests because of limited parking places at the fair venue. Non-participation of guests on different days is a routine affair and is not a political issue, he added.