Congress questions Patnaik's commitment to Odisha

Bhubaneswar, June 12 (IANS) Criticising Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for holding a rally in New Delhi against the state's alleged neglect by the central government, the Congress Wednesday questioned his commitment to Odisha's culture.

"It is ironical that Naveen Patnaik is the only chief minister in Indian history who can't speak or write Odiya, the state's official language," senior Congress leader and former minister Niranjan Patnaik told reporters here.

"The chief minister is talking of Odiya Swabhiman (Odiya pride). Swabhiman to any Odiya means economic development as well as protecting the state's language and culture. He should either learn Odiya or quit the state," he demanded.

The Congress leader also shot off a letter to union Law Minister Kapil Sibal asking him to initiate moves for an amendment to Article 173 of the constitution to make it mandatory for all members of the state assembly to be able to read, write and speak the language of the state.

Citing a rule the Odisha government has made, Niranjan Patnaik said it is ironical that a person cannot become a sarpanch (village council chief) in Odisha without knowing Odiya, but can be a legislator, minister or even the chief minister.

Terming the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) rally in New Delhi as an unnecessary gimmick, he said not merely Odisha, but all the backward states are demanding special category status and the Congress supported the demand.

The BJD, however refuted the allegation against the chief minister. "The chief minister is able to speak and communicate in Odiya. He understands the language well," a senior BJD leader said.

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