Jual clarifies comment on chit fund scam probe by CBI

BHUBANESWAR: In a flip-flop, Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram on Saturday backtracked from his Friday remarks that the Centre was lenient on the BJD government resulting in slowdown of CBI probe into the chit fund scam in the state.

"I was referring to people's perception about the ongoing probe by the central agency. They feel it has slowed down. I never spoke about my own assessment of the situation. But I was misquoted by a section of the media," Jual told the media here.

Talking to TOI, Jual said, "CBI being an independent organization, the Centre doesn't have any influence on the pace of its investigations. If it is slow, the agency itself can explain the reasons."

Dismissing Congress' allegation that the saffron party was soft on its estranged ally BJD (with whom it shared power in Odisha for two terms till 2009) and had a secret deal with it, Jual said there is no such understanding. "There is no question of the Centre being soft on the BJD regime," he said.

Jual's remarks invited sharp reactions across the political spectrum. Vying for CBI's autonomy, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the central probe agency was free from political interference. He, however, sought to stay away from Jual's statement on the plea that he had not heard it and not discussed with him yet.

State BJP president KV Singhdeo said everybody knows what would have happened had the CBI probe progressed fast. But the government at the Centre has no say in the independent agency's functioning.

Leader of opposition Narasingha Mishra said Jual's statement had exposed the secret BJP-BJD understanding. "Jual's denial now seems to be an afterthought for reasons best known to him. His statement only corroborates the suspicion in peoples mind about the relationship between the two parties. It is very unfortunate for the entire country," he said.

BJD parliamentary party leader in the Lok Sabha Bhartruhari Mahtab said being such a sensible and seasoned political leader Jual is unlikely to have given any such statement. His denial re-assures my belief, Mahtab said.

On Friday, Jual said the BJD government should be thankful to the Centre. "Had it pursued the probe into mining and chit fund scams sincerely, the BJD would have ruined." He also said the CBI probe into the Ponzi scam had slowed down.

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