BJP's Sambit Patra sparks stir by saying 'Lord Jagannath devotee of PM'

Sambit Patra with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a roadshow for Lok Sabha elections in Puri on Monday. Photo: PTI

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday appealed to the BJP to keep Lord Jagannath above the political discourse, after the saffron party's Puri candidate Sambit Patra's remark that the state's most revered deity is a "devotee of Prime Minister Narendra Modi" sparked a stir.

Patra, however, later clarified that it was a slip of tongue and he wanted to mean that the PM was an ardent 'bhakt' (devotee) of Lord Jagannath and not the other way round. Patnaik, in an X post, criticised Patra for hurting Odia 'asmita' (pride). "Mahaprabhu Shree Jagannatha is the Lord of the Universe. Calling Mahaprabhu a 'bhakt' of another human being is an insult to the Lord... it is totally condemnable. This has hurt the sentiments and demeaned the faith of crores of Jagannatha bhaktas and Odias across the world.

"The Lord is the greatest symbol of Odia asmita. I strongly denounce the statement... 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," he said.

Patra, while responding to the CM's post, said that "we all have slip of tongue sometimes". "I gave a number of bytes today to multiple media channels after the massive success of Shri Narendra Modiji's road show in Puri today, everywhere I mentioned that Modi ji is an ardent 'bhakt' of Shri Jagannath Mahaprabhu.

"By mistake during one of the bytes, I said just the opposite... I know you too know and understand this... Sir let's not make an issue out of a nonexistent issue... we all have slip of tongue sometimes," Patra said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also condemned the statement of the BJP candidate. "I strongly condemn this statement of the BJP. They have started thinking that they are above God. This is a height of arrogance. Calling God bhakt of Modi ji is an insult to God," he posted on X.

AICC in-charge of Odisha, Ajoy Kumar, also condemned the statement, posting on X, "The country and Odisha will not tolerate this insult of Lord Jagannath!"

The BJD president's attack on the BJP came on the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah raising the issue of Ratna Bhandar (treasury) of Lord Jagannath in poll rallies.

Addressing two election rallies in Angul and Cuttack on Monday, Modi raised the Ratna Bhandar missing key issue and sought to know why the BJD "suppressed the judicial commission report" on the matter. "The BJD's role in the case is suspicious. After the BJP forms the government in Odisha, it will make the report public," Modi said.

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