ROURKELA: A controversy has erupted after Congress candidate for Rajgangpur municipality chairperson post Iftekar Ahemad sought to withdraw from the race abruptly, leaving the party in a fix.
Training guns at BJD, both the Congress and BJP accused the ruling party of abusing its power and intimidating the candidate. Sundargarh district Congress committee president Benu Madhav Tripathy alleged that the BJD was using the government machinery to coerce Iftekar to withdraw from the fray. "The BJD wants to win the Rajgangpur municipality chairperson election by any means and for that, it is resorting to undemocratic and arm-twisting measures to threaten the Congress candidate," he claimed.
Similarly, BJP's candidate for the chairperson post Kuldeep Singh alleged that since Iftekar has multiple legitimate brewing units at many parts of Odisha, he was being threatened by the State Excise department of getting his business hurt.
"The BJD is losing the Rajgangpur urban polls and its coercive practice is set to backfire as the politically-aware residents of the town have made up their minds to vote en masse for BJP," he said.
Sexagenarian Iftekar, a country liquor baron and Congress president of Rajgangpur town, holds immense influence on Muslim voters of the area. He entered the fray on the last day of nomination filing on March 7. But after scrutiny, he approached the Congress high command on March 10 to allow him withdraw from the contest.
Congress insiders said Iftekar had voluntarily sought nomination for the chairperson post from the Congress. But after scrutiny, he cited ill-health of his son to abstain from the contest. His son is ill for the last couple of years and the timing of his decision is questionable, they informed.
Singh further claimed that on the last day of nomination filing, former BJD chairperson of the municipality Sushrita Paikray was also stopped from entering the fray as Independent candidate as some Vigilance officers reportedly landed at her house with the threat to reopen an old case. "Election should be held in a free and fair manner, but BJD's action shows its desperation and fear," he added.
Iftekar did not respond to repeated phone calls so was Rajgangpur Congress MLA CS Rajen Ekka whose silence over the issue has baffled the party's local rank and file. BJD's Sundargarh unit president Binay Toppo also remained silent over the allegations levelled by Congress and BJP.