Sambit Patra

1. Sambit Patra, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Puri Lok Sabha candidate issued an unconditional apology.
2. He announced a three-day fast as penance.
3. The controversy stemmed from his “slip of the tongue” regarding Lord Jagannath.

Puri, May 21: Sambit Patra, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Puri Lok Sabha candidate, recently found himself embroiled in controversy following a “slip of the tongue” regarding Lord Jagannath.

In response to the backlash, Patra issued an unconditional apology and announced a three-day fast as penance.

The incident occurred during an interaction with reporters on a local television channel on Monday. Patra inadvertently said, “Lord Jagannath is a devotee of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

This statement quickly sparked outrage and criticism. Clarifying his remarks later, Patra explained that he had meant to say that PM Modi is an ardent ‘bhakt’ (devotee) of Lord Jagannath, not the other way around.

Expressing his regret, Patra took to the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to apologize. He wrote, “For this mistake, I apologize at the feet of Lord Sri Jagannath. I will fast for the next three days to atone for this mistake.”

He further elaborated that the error occurred during the hectic interactions he had with various media outlets on Monday, coinciding with Modi’s roadshow in Puri. Instead of saying “Maha Prabhu Sri Jagannath’s Bhakt Modi,” he mistakenly said “Modi’s Bhakt Jagannath.”

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The BJP candidate’s misstatement led to widespread condemnation, including from Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. In a strongly worded post on X, Patnaik condemned Patra’s words, emphasizing that Lord Jagannath, revered as the Lord of the Universe, should never be depicted as a devotee of any human being.

Patnaik stated, “Calling Mahaprabhu a ‘bhakt’ of another human being is an insult to the Lord… it is totally condemnable. This has hurt the sentiments and demeaned the faith of crores of Jagannatha bhaktas and Odias across the world.”

Patnaik also underscored the cultural significance of Lord Jagannath to the Odia people, describing the deity as the greatest symbol of Odia’s pride and identity.

He appealed to the BJP to refrain from involving the Lord in political discourse, warning that the statement had deeply hurt the sentiments of the people of Odisha and would be remembered and condemned for a long time.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also joined in the condemnation. He posted on X, “I strongly condemn this statement of the BJP. They have started thinking that they are above God. This is the height of arrogance. Calling God a ‘bhakt’ of Modi ji is an insult to God.”

The controversy surrounding Patra’s statement highlights the sensitivities involved in religious and political discourse in India.

It underscores the need for politicians to be particularly careful with their words, especially when they pertain to revered religious figures.

Patra’s decision to undertake a three-day fast is seen as a gesture of sincere apology and an attempt to mitigate the damage caused by his inadvertent remark.