Bhubaneswar, Oct 6 : The family of former Biju Janata Dal (BJD) lawmaker turned BJP Vice President Jay Panda, who owns a powerful media empire, seems to be at the centre of a row that Panda’s wife and OTV’s Managing Director Jagi Panda alleges is “vindictive harassment by the Naveen Patnaik government” for their news channel’s reportage on “Covid corruption in Odisha”.
A case has been filed against the Jagi Panda, her father and brother under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
But Odisha TV has alleged that local news channels that carried the news of the FIR are “affiliated with the Naveen Patnaik government” .
However, Ms Panda has pleaded innocence while claiming, “These allegations are totally baseless and we vehemently deny them.”
She further alleged, “Ever since OTV covered stories about Covid corruption in Odisha, various state government authorities have been targeting OTV and its employees, as well as me and my family members.”
Ms Panda has sought an investigation by a “credible and neutral agencies”.
This is not the first time that OTV has seen its owner get into trouble with the state government. Jagi Panda says the High Court has given them interim protection in two such cases earlier.
“This vindictive harassment by the Naveen Patnaik government, based on false allegations, has been there for everyone to see, and we fully expect more such false cases against us in future. We had earlier approached the courts and have received interim relief in the two such matters from the Honourable High Court,” Ms Panda said in a statement.
Last March Jay Panda had joined the BJP in New Delhi, giving the party a strong leader in the state where it lacked any prominent national faces apart from Dharmendra Pradhan.
After a long run with Odisha’s ruling party, Panda fell out with CM Patnaik.
Panda was suspended for “anti-party” activities in 2018 for his perceived proximity with the BJP, following which he had resigned from the party and his Lok Sabha seat.
However, ever since Panda’s induction into the BJP, friction between the Pandas and Odisha authorities seems to have increased.
Panda was a Vice President in the BJP during Amit Shah’s tenure. He retained his post even in Team Nadda, indicating the importance that BJP accords to him.