The BJP, which launched a statewide agitation demanding that the key be traced immediately, has also questioned the silence of chief minister, Naveen Patnaik over the issue. People demand that Naveen should clarify whether the key has gone missing or has been misplaced deliberately.
The issue of the missing key of Puri Jagannath temple’s Ratna Bhandar (treasury) has become a handy weapon for the BJP to launch attacks on the ruling Biju Janata Dal and its government in the state. It has given the party enough ammo against the Naveen Patnaik regime while also providing it an opportunity to strike an emotional chord with the people ahead of the general elections.
Even though the key (a duplicate one) has finally been traced the saffron party has been unrelenting in its attacks on the government. The party, which launched a statewide agitation today demanding that the key be traced immediately, has also questioned the silence of chief minister, Naveen Patnaik over the issue. A senior party spokesperson had demanded that Naveen should clarify whether the key has gone missing or has been misplaced deliberately.
Even as party workers held demonstration across the state and submitted memorandums to the governor through sub-collectors demanding steps to trace the Ratna Bhandar key the spokesperson also trained his guns at the Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) which had decided to transfer 14 kg of gold and 18 kg silver from the temple treasury to a State Bank of India locker. He described the decision to keep ornaments received as gifts for the Temple outside the Ratna Bhandar as “completely illegal” and violative of Jagannath Temple Rules 1960”.
While senior BJP leader and former chief minister, Giridhar Gamang, who held the reins of the state administration for a brief period in 1999, asserted that key to the temple treasury was safe during his tenure, thus indicating that it could have gone missing later when the BJD came to power, BJP national secretary, Suresh Pujari said the issue had turned emotive as Lord Jagannath was the presiding deity of the state. “Earlier there was disruption in the conduct of rituals at the temple resulting in deities going without food and now the key has gone missing. The people are agitated,” said Pujari.
Sources said the BJP was using the issue to strike an emotional chord with the people as Puri happens to be a major pilgrimage center of the country. In the past there has also been speculation about Prime Minister, Narendra Modi contesting from Puri though this was later denied by BJP president, Amit Shah. “The very mention of Puri evokes emotions. Besides it also happens to be a politically sensitive area and very important for us considering that we still do not have much of a presence in the state’s coastal belt,” admitted a BJP leader.
Ruling BJD leaders, however, dismissed BJP’s charges on the missing key issue. Puri MP, Pinaki Mishra decried attempts to politicize the issue saying that chief minister’s name was being unnecessarily dragged into the controversy.