Union minister shares stage with murder accused in Odisha

Bhubaneswar, Jan 30 (IANS) Photographs of union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, along with some Congress members, sharing a stage with two brothers allegedly involved in murder and extortion surfaced in Odisha on Saturday, forcing them to defend their stand.

A day after Sushant Dhalasamant and Sushil Dhalasamant were arrested, the photographs of Pradhan, former BJP minister Sameer Dey, former Congress MP Bhakta Charan Das, former MLA Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, senior Congress leader Suresh Mohapatra, BJD MLAs Debasish Samantaray, Rajashree Mallick and Pramod Kumar Mallick sharing a platform with the duo surfaced.

In his defence, Pradhan told reporters here: “If a politician is involved with a criminal and committed a crime in connivance with him, then it is an offence. As far as I know, I have not done any such thing. Moreover, till the time the court has convicted a person, he cannot be called a criminal.”

Congress leader Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra said: “Sushil is one of my distant relatives. No case is registered against Sushil. There is a deep conspiracy behind his arrest.”

Meanwhile, the ruling Biju Janata Dal played down the incident and said the party “MLAs were only attending a blood donation camp and have no link with Dhalasamant brothers”.

Police recovered at least four .9 mm pistols with 127 live cartridges, a double barrel gun along with 20 rounds of ammunition and a carbine from the Cuttack house of the duo. Over Rs.2.5 crore cash was also recovered.

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