Let PM find Ratna Bhandar keys if he has info: BJD leader VK Pandian

The CM’s aide dismissed PM’s remarks as a political statement
BJD star campaigner VK Pandian clicks a selfie with the gathering at a public meeting in Nayapalli on Tuesday
BJD star campaigner VK Pandian clicks a selfie with the gathering at a public meeting in Nayapalli on TuesdayPhoto | Dedabatta Mallick

BHUBANESWAR: BJD star campaigner VK Pandian on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should find out the keys to the Ratna Bhandar of Shree Jagannath temple in Puri if he has any knowledge about it.

Pandian’s retort came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue during his election rallies in Odisha and said the keys to the Srimandir’s treasury have gone to Tamil Nadu. “I would humbly request the honourable prime minister to find out the keys if he has some knowledge about it. He can enlighten the people of Odisha,” Pandian said in an interview to PTI Videos.

The closest aide of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for years, Pandian also dismissed the prime minister’s remark as a political statement. “He is making a political statement. So, we will take it like that,” he said.

The BJD leader said the inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar has not been opened in almost four decades. For nearly a decade, the BJP ministers handled the matter. “So perhaps they should find out where the keys are,” he said.

Pandian said an affidavit pertaining to the judicial inquiry report on missing Ratna Bhandar keys was submitted in the high court. He said the HC ordered the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) to open the Ratna Bhandar. Accordingly, it was decided that the temple treasury will be opened during Rath Yatra when devotees will not be present inside the shrine.

Stating that the SJTA headed by the Puri Gajapati has decided to open the Ratna Bhandar, Pandian said the state government’s role was confined to appointing a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which has been done. The committee has been appointed and the date has been fixed too, he said.

The BJD leader also invited the prime minister to come and witness the opening of Ratna Bhandar after 40 years. He claimed the Ratna Bhandar issue is a ploy of the BJP to divert attention from core issues of unemployment, price rise and inflation which are affecting the common people.

He said the BJP is trying to build a narrative as it is on a weak wicket. “You can get a hint of what BJP is facing here from their rhetoric and false narratives that they are trying to set in motion.”

On the day, Pandian also campaigned for BJD candidates in Karanjia, Champua, Patna, Telkoi and Ghasipura Assembly constituencies in Keonjhar Lok Sabha seat and urged voters to campaign for ‘Jodi Sankha’.

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