Odisha Health and Family Welfare Minister Naba Kisore Das, who fell to assassin’s bullet on Sunday, was consigned to flames in full state honour on Monday in Jharsuguda district as the mourners lined up along the main thoroughfares to catch glimpse of the mortal remain of the departed leader.
There was outpouring of grief in the western Odisha town as residents rose to the occasion in bidding tearful farewell to the deceased leader.
60-year-old Das was shot at from point blank range by assistant sub inspector Gopal Krushna Das at Brajrajnagar town at around 1 pm yesterday when the minister was on his way to attend a programme in the district. He later succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar yesterday.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik mourned Das’ death saying that he was instrumental in strengthening the Biju Janata Dal. He was a “grassroot person” and was “loved and respected by all, cutting across parties and sections of people, ” Patnaik said in a statement.
Das, who was the second richest lawmaker in the state with flourishing transport business, is envied by political opponents for his organisational skill at grass root level. The victory of BJD in rural and urban body polls in western Odisha districts particularly in Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Sundargarh, Bargarh and Deogarh is principally attributed to his acumen to mobilise the party cadres at the village level and translate it into votes.
The regional party’s electoral success in three by-elections in Bijepur, Brajarajnagar and Padampur constituencies in western Odisha is also credited to Das to a large extent.
Das, three-time MLA from Jharsuguda, won consecutive elections from 2009. He won polls twice on the Congress ticket. Ahead of the 2019 assembly polls, he quit congress to join BJD and won on the regional party’s ticket. His entry into BJD’s fold war targeted at checkmating BJP in its stronghold western Odisha.
Political observers widely believe that Das with his political maneuvering skill had succeeded in upsetting BJP’s poll applecart to a large extent. Besides organizational skill, his pro-active role during the COVID-19 pandemic had won appreciation from several quarters and the confidence of the BJD Supremo Naveen Patnaik.
Meanwhile, the Crime Branch wing headed by Additional Director General of Police Arun Bothra quizzed the assailant Gopal Krushna Das at an undisclosed destination in a neighbouring district.
The accused Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Das booked under murder charge and arms act has been arrested and will be produced in a local court. The CB will pray the court to seek a seven-day remand of the accused for further interrogation of the assailant, a senior CB official said.
“We are looking into all possible angles to ascertain the motive of the crime. The past enmity and conspiracy angles of the high-profile murder are being probed into. The CB is yet to arrive at a definite motive of the murder. The medical history of the accused is being examined. The accused ASI was not posted as the personal security officer (PSO) of the former health Minister in the past”, the official added.
It may be noted here that Naba Kishore Das is the first minister in the State to be assassinated and the second lawmaker after the killing of BJD MLA Jagabandhu Majhi by Maoists in 2011.