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Why was Odisha humiliated?

national media odisha debate

Samahit Bal

Throughout this week Odisha has been in news for the wrong reasons. As if the extremely tragic incident of 26 deaths in the Sum inferno was not painful enough, senior inarticulate politicians of the State embarrassed Odias nationally with their inability to speak in English and counter with sense or tactics any questions coming from a senior journalist on national television.

These state politicians who are in power through public votes were exposed as few bricks short of the load. Despite any experience in facing national media they consider themselves enlightened whereas the state became an object of humour across the country thanks to their incapability. Failing completely to give any prompt responses on television to the news anchor’s or callers’ questions, they brought shame for the state making Odisha look intellectually bankrupt while those leaders who have been MPs more than once and owe it to the mercy of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, despite being articulate were probably too busy using their influence as MPs in Delhi to serve their own interests and businesses in which they never lag behind. The latter left the pride of the state to the hands of incompetent leaders for whom the state government had to bear humiliation.

The national news channel covered the Sum incident extensively and conducted debate for three days continuously on prime time. But those who represented the state government during the debate on all three days brought disgrace for Odisha before the entire nation. They could neither speak clearly nor put across a strong argument and definitely had no answers to the allegations of viewers and the panel members of the debate. While two of the state leaders embarrassingly sat through till the end of the debate another left it mid way. Why they took part in the debate and who sent them in the first place is a big question! Despite having taken action in every issue these inept leaders made it look like a ‘gangrape’ of the state government before the whole country. It was MLAs Surya Patra, Sashibhushan Behera and Amar Satpathy who took part in the debate on the first, second and third day respectively.

The day the debate was aired on national media CM Naveen Patnaik was busy in a meeting with envoys of 25 countries. He had firmly stated about the strict action to be taken against culprits behind the Sum incident. But the inefficient leaders could not display the same firmness.

The state government has taken action against various issues like chit fund scam, mining scam, fraud of self styled Godmen and so on and yet it came out stained and disgraced owing to these inarticulate politicians spoiling the image of Odisha as intellectually backward.

Odisha has no dearth of articulate speakers and orators in English, seasoned politicians or intellectuals who have often participated in national media and put across fitting replies in debates. Specially, BJD itself has no dearth of such leaders. While BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab is well known as a strong orator nationally, he was abroad during the television debate. Similarly, BJD MP Baijayant Panda is extremely deft in tackling questions of national media but it is not known if he was in the country or not for the debate. Even MP Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo who is a good speaker did not take part in the debate. May be he was not chosen for the television debate or he did not want to take part in it. Same with MP Tathagata Satpathy, a strong speaker in national media, who either did not choose to participate or was not informed about it. But there was Pinaki Mishra, the MP who belonged to another party and after defeat joined BJD and has made it twice to the Lok Sabha courtesy Naveen Patnaik, who could have spoken well on behalf of the state government. But keeping busy with his personal interests and business, Mishra probably could not find time to speak up for his party or state government. While all the above MPs often flaunt their political supremacy using Naveen Patnaik’s name and popularity, they become invisible when it is time to stand for the state or Naveen and allow Odisha to be humiliated on national media.

Among BJD state leaders, party spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb is proficient in English debates. But it is unfathomable why he did not represent the state government in the television show. If the available leaders were not comfortable in speaking English at least a bureaucrat could have represented the state government who would have been in a better position to answer allegations since they often put across the state government’s views before media. But even that wasn’t done.

Meanwhile, in regional electronic media, BJD ministers and leaders like Ashok Chandra Panda and others were seen having a good laugh at the incident. Is this acceptable? When state government is taking action after every incident why Odisha had to be humilated nationally is incomprehensible.

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