The BJD government, which has an overwhelming majority in the Odisha Assembly, is facing scrutiny over its policies by its own MLAs, leading to some unconventional exchanges during the ongoing session.
During Question Hour on Wednesday, BJD’s Pradeep Maharathy asked, "How many multi-purpose cold storage units are present in Odisha and of them, how many are defunct? Are these units being used by potato farmers in our state?"
To this, Finance and Excise Minister Niranjan Pujari, replying on behalf of the Agriculture Minister, said, "He (Maharathy) has done doctorate in agriculture and always claims to be the son of a farmer. I am also the son of a farmer. Potato Mission was started when he (Maharathy) was minister and it ended with his tenure. We are trying to revamp it…There are 128 cold storage units of which 80 became defunct in his tenure (as agriculture minister)."
Following Pujari’s response, reports surfaced that Maharathy was unhappy with the minister’s conduct and decided not to eat anything for the day.
On Thursday, BJD’s Chief Whip Pramilla Mallick waded into the controversy. "Maharathy is not angry with any minister or government. He speaks like a theatre personality. This is not to be taken seriously," Mallick said, adding that it was inconceivable that Maharathy, being a diabetic, had not eaten for a day.
Taking a dig at Mallick, Maharathy told reporters, "I don’t know when my elder sister abandoned politics and started studying medical science."
Responding to Pujari’s statement over his tenure as the agriculture minister, the BJD MLA said, "He thought he was speaking in the lobby, but this is the House and (a response) is forever on record."
"As (agriculture) minister, I had won Krishi Karman award four times… As minister, I ensured that 48 cold storage units started functioning. As far as failing in Potato Mission is concerned, our state needs 2,90,000 metric tonnes of potato of which 10,000 metric tonnes were short. I increased the potato cultivation area from 12,500 to 25,000 hectares," he told the media.
Meanwhile, citing 41 natural calamities in 50 years, BJD MLA Prafulla Samal on Thursday asked, "Is there any scientific solution…can we change the wind speed or direction of natural calamities like Fani?"