Less than 12 days to go for the Bijepur by-election, the Biju Janata Dal (BJP) party in Odisha led by chief minister Naveen Patnaik has written to the chief electoral officer seeking action against Odia channel, OTV, and its promoter and suspended party MP Baijayant Panda for carrying alleged ‘paid news’ in favour of the rival BJP.
“After Shri Panda has been suspended from BJD for anti party activities on allegations of filing false affidavit, Shri Panda and his wife Mrs Jagi Mangat Panda are carrying out a baseless, motivated vilification campaign against BJD and the State Government with a vested interest to defame the Government and the Party before the public at large,” the BJD alleged in its letter to the EC, dated February 12.
“The news items, breaking news scrolls, panel discussions and debates, Janmancha programmes, special programmes relating to Beijapur bye-election have been colored and totally one sided in favour of BJP and its candidate Shri Ashok Panigrahi. This amounts to surrogate advertising and falls within definition of paid news, promoting a particular candidate and a party- becoming the mouthpiece of Bharatiya Janata Party and its candidate,” the letter said.
Terming the allegations as "cheap politics", Panda said: "They (BJD) ignore the fact that OTV has carried every allegation against me. I'm not involved in running the channel, which is run professionally vide a written charter of neutrality, and gives all sides an opportunity to make their point. But recently, the BJD seems to have become paranoid after Pandian's political role has been exposed. Instead of making such false complaints, they should use OTV's neutral platform to make their points to the public, as they used to."
Panda was suspended from the party in January as the BJD said the lawmaker from Kendrapara, which was for long the seat of Naveen Patnaik's father Biju Patnaik, targeted the Party for not nominating him for chairmanship of the standing committee of Finance due to conflict of interest. It was also widely seen as the culmination of the tussle between Panda and Patnaik. Panda had then dubbed it as a “conspiracy” against him.
The Bijapur bypoll is scheduled to be held on February 24.