Odisha: EC officials attacked during raid, rise in poll violence

Sampad Patnaik
Former Biju Janata Dal (BJD) minister and Pipili constituency candidate Pradeep Maharathy arrested by police in connection with the alleged attack on Election Commission flying squad team, in Bhuvneshwar, Monday, April 22 2019. (PTI Photo/)

Poll-related violence has shot up in Odisha ahead of the third phase of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, with the police arresting BJD Pipili MLA candidate and former minister Pradeep Maharathy for an attack on the Election Commission’s (EC) flying squad during an inspection of his farmhouse Sunday night.

The Pipili Assembly seat falls under the Puri Lok Sabha constituency.

"We received information regarding the distribution of liquor and money in Maharathy’s farmhouse. Our team was abused and beaten. Some of us have been injured. I have been hit on the waist and cannot walk," said flying squad magistrate Rabinarayan Patra.

Police has charged Maharathy under IPC Sections 307, 353, 341, 331, 147, 148, 149, 171(b), and 186, as well as Section 123 of The Representation of People’s Act, 1951.

After the incident, Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan released a video, claiming that the attack indicates that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is worried about an "impending loss" in the polls. He asked the CM to apologize for nominating Maharathy as a candidate, and said that if elected to power, the BJP will bring in a "Goonda Act" in Odisha.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik has claimed he and his team were attacked on Sunday by a group of 70 people on "direct orders" from the CM. Around six other Congress workers were reportedly injured in the attack.

The Congress leader also claimed that two shots were fired, but no one had been injured. He said that among the attackers, he could identify the sons of School and Mass Education Minister Badri Narayan Patra – his rival and incumbent MLA in Ghasipura Assembly seat under Keonjhar Lok Sabha constituency.

He tweeted: "The Naveen Gunda Vahini on direct orders from @Naveen_Odisha has stooped to the lowest and attacked me in Ghasipura. Such is the fear of defeat that BJD has dropped all pretence and shown their ugly face to the voters of Odisha."

The term 'Naveen Gunda Vahini’ is a reference to the state government’s Biju Yuva Vahini, which has previously courted controversy for falling under a state scheme and working as a wing of the BJD.

Meanwhile, CM Patnaik visited Bhubaneswar Central MLA candidate Anant Jena on Monday, a day after he was reportedly attacked with bombs. His BJP opponent Jagannath Pradhan has reported a similar attack.

The BJD also released a video accusing the BJP and Pradhan of "bringing poll violence culture from Bihar into a peaceful Odisha".