Will Sambit Patra’s Lord Jagannath remarks have bearing on BJP in Odisha polls?

Will Sambit Patra's Lord Jagannath remarks have bearing on BJP in Odisha polls?

Will Sambit Patra's Lord Jagannath remarks have bearing on BJP in Odisha polls?

BJP national spokesperson and Puri Lok Sabha candidate Sambit Patra caught himself in the eye of a storm after remarking that Lord Jagannath is a “devotee of Modi”. The remarks have triggered sharp reactions from Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and leaders of other parties.

Though Patra has clarified that the comment was a ‘slip of tongue’, the issue may be politically damaging for the BJP ahead of the two remaining phases of polls in the Odisha assembly and Lok Sabha. Other BJP leaders have not reacted on the issue.

Patra’s remarks about Odisha’s most revered deity came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day campaigning in the eastern state. Modi had a darshan of Lord Jagannath in Puri on Monday morning followed by a roadshow on the city’s Grand Road (Bada Danda) where three chariots were dragged by thousands of devotees during annual car festival. Then he addressed two election rallies at Angul and Cuttack where he reiterated that BJP will form government in the state this time.

Patnaik condemned Patra’s remark, saying, “Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannatha is the Lord of the Universe. Calling Mahaprabhu a bhakt of another human being is an insult to the Lord. This has hurt the sentiments and demeaned the faith of crores of Jagannatha bhaktas and Odias across the world.”

Further taking to X, Patnaik posted, “The Lord is the greatest symbol of Odia Asmita. Calling Mahaprabhu a bhakt of another human being is totally condemnable. I strongly denounce the statement made by the BJP Puri loksabha candidate and I appeal to the BJP to keep the Lord above any political discourse. By this you have deeply hurt Odia Asmita and this will be remembered and condemned by people of Odisha for a very long time.”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condemned Patra’s remark while Jairam Ramesh dubbed it “an outrageous statement,” demanding the BJP leader should be immediately disqualified. Congress on its official handle posted, “BJP leader Sambit Patra says that Mahaprabhu Lord Sri Jagannath is a devotee of Narendra Modi. This is a gross insult to Mahaprabhu. This statement has hurt the faith of crores of devotees. Mr Sambit Patra who is immersed in Modi Bhakti should not have committed this sin. Narendra Modi himself should apologise for this disturbing statement.”

Strongly condemning Patra’s statement, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “They (BJP) have started thinking that they are above God. This is the height of arrogance. Calling God bhakt of Modi is an insult to God.’

On Monday, Odisha witnessed its second round of polls in five Lok Sabha seats and 35 assembly segments. In 2019, Patra had lost to BJD’s Pinaki Mishra from Puri Lok Sabha seat. This time Patra is trying his luck again from Puri against BJD’s Arup Patnaik, retired IPS officer and former Mumbai Commissioner of Police, and Congress candidate Jaynarayan Patnaik. Puri Lok Sabha seat and seven assembly constituencies under it will go to polls on May 25. Since the state has two more phases of polls in 12 more Lok Sabha constituencies and 84 assembly seats, Patra’s remarks is likely to have a political bearing.

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