CUTTACK: With mounting protests over inclusion of her name in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiary list along with family members, Cuttack Mayor Anita Behera on Tuesday resigned from her post. Behera, however, reiterated her innocence and said she had decided to tender resignation from both the posts of Mayor and Corporator owning moral responsibility for the fiasco that threatened to snowball into a major controversy and affect the image of BJD. “I am not guilty. My name has been included in the list without my knowledge and I have myself asked for cancellation. However, I have decided to step down voluntarily to save my party and our leader Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik from any embarrassment on the issue,” she told mediapersons.
The decision was apparently taken at a meeting of MLAs from the Millennium City including Cuttack City legislator Debasish Samantray, Cuttack Choudwar representative Pravat Biswal and Cuttack Sadar MLA Chandrasarathi Behera, who went into a huddle as the opposition Congress and BJP upped the ante on the issue. Samantray lauded Behera for offering to step down on her own stating, “It would set an example. As Mayor, she has been committed to development of the city. She has no involvement in the matter and her innocence would be proved soon.” Following Behera’s resignation, Deputy Mayor Ajay Barik has been assigned the charges as Acting Mayor,CMC officials said.
The Mayor had been in the eye of a storm after her name and that of family members including husband Narendra Behera and two daughters, Rashmita and Sunita, figured in the list of digitised ration cards. While the issue created a furore in the Council meeting on Monday, the CMC authorities jumped to the beleaguered Mayor’s rescue stating that there was no wrong doing on her part.
CMC Commissioner Gyana Das had submitted a report to Collector NIrmal Chandra Mishra stating that the Mayor had herself asked for cancellation of the digitised ration cards and deletion of her name from the list when she detected it in mid- December. The names had been inadvertently included by field officials during verification drives and action had been registered against them, Das had said. The Opposition Congress was, however, unrelenting and stated that this gave credence to its allegations of large scale irregularities in beneficiary identification and enlistment in Cuttack City. On Tuesday, the party led by City president Md Mokim staged demonstration at the Collectorate and submitted a memorandum to the Collector seeking Behera’sdismissal. The Congress has also filed a written complaint with Purighat police demanding criminal action.
On the Mayor’s resignation, Mokim said she had no other option but to step down. However, the matter does not end here and all irregularities should be probed thoroughly and action taken against all guilty. The BJP also staged a demonstration at the CMC office on Tuesday demanding Behera’s resignation.