A BJP member’s claim that Odisha’s pilgrim town of Puri became famous only after the party’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra contested the Lok Sabha election from the constituency sparked outrage and spurred both the ruling BJD and the opposition Congress to attack her.
Lekhashree Samantasinghar, one of the BJP spokespersons in Odisha who was addressing party workers at an event in the Pipli area of Puri district on Monday, said people used to think that Puri is in Kolkata but they came to know about the town being in Odisha only after Sambit Patra contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Puri. Patra lost the election to BJD’s Pinaki Mishra.
Soon after a video clip of her statement went viral on social media, both BJD and Congress leaders trained their guns on her.
Niranjan Patnaik, Congress chief in Odisha said Samantasinghar’s remark reeked of BJP’s arrogance. “Not just have they insulted the abode of Lord Jagannath, but it seems the BJP leaders have started imagining themselves as God,” he said.
Senior BJD leader Arup Patnaik said Samantsinghar has probably gone insane. “As the son of Delanga (in Puri district), I take strong objection to her remarks that people did not know about Puri before Sambit Patra’s arrival as a candidate in the 2019 polls. I condemn this as an individual from Puri District. It’s outrageous for me and many others to see the lady making disparaging remarks on our Jagannath Dham. We Odias have become a soft target,” said Patnaik.
BJD MP Amar Patnaik said the BJP spokesperson’s statement was an insult to Odisha and the land of Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe. “Even a 3-year-old child knows where Puri is, the humble abode of Lord Jagannath. Make no mistake, he is the lord of Kolkata as well,” he said.
Faced with the blowback, the BJP launched a firefighting operation to defend Samantsinghar. Samir Mohanty, head of the BJP unit in Odisha said Samantsinghar was being quoted out of context.
“She spoke about Puri in the context of Vocal for Local issue. While Pipili is known for its applique work, there are other products in the districts that need to be popularised. All that she meant was that Sambit Patra would take the lead in popularising those products,” Mohanty said.