Following former Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout’s removal from the ministry and post of party vice-president, over his alleged derogatory remarks on Brahmins, several BJD leaders on Saturday attributed his recurrent controversial statements to recklessness rather than scheming to damage the party image.
At a function in Malkangiri on December 17, Rout reportedly said that while no tribal is seen begging in the state, Brahmins beg in places such as bus stands. Rout has had a history of controversial statements, many of them carrying explicit and pejorative caste references. “I believe the party knows that he (Rout) is a bull in a china shop. It is not intentional. Nor is he in cahoots with anyone inside or outside the party,” said a BJD leader on Rout’s remarks.
“Because he has not been checked earlier, this time too he was expecting just a reprimand,” another BJD leader said. “After the younger ministers moved from the Cabinet, there was no challenge to him in the Cabinet. He was hedging his bets. But with CM Naveen Patnaik, you can never anticipate what is coming,” said a party legislator.
The BJD leaders could not answer if Rout, who was known to be a confidant of CM Patnaik, would be rehabilitated in the government and party, or face the end of his political tenure. “Patnaik is more focused on the well-being of the party than personal equations,” said a BJD MP.
The Paradeep MLA had in February compared BJP’s strong showing in Odisha’s local body polls with the rise of dengue fever. Amid Odisha’s pest crisis in November, Rout reprimanded farmers for burning crops and said they would not be compensated. He had also reportedly made derogatory comments against a woman politician. Rout did not respond to requests for comment.