Bargarh (Odisha): A man hurled a pair of shoes at Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik when he was addressing an election meeting in Bargarh district on Tuesday, police said.
The chief minister escaped unhurt but the footwear hit his personal security officer. The attacker was swiftly taken into custody by the security personnel, while Patnaik was escorted to safety.
The incident took place at Khumbhari village in Bijepur Assembly constituency when Patnaik was addressing a meeting following a road show in Barpali.
The man was identified as Kartik Meher of Budhapalli area in Bargarh district, Inspector In-Charge of Barpali police station, Subrat Kumar Behera said.
Meher was allegedly beaten up by the mob while being taken away by the police, and is currently undergoing treatment at VSS Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (VIMSAR) in neighbouring Sambalpur district, the police said.
The police officer said a BJP flag was recovered from the man. However, Meher claimed he did not belong to any political party and was opposed to political leaders delivering speeches at public meetings before elections.
Bypoll in the Bijepur Assembly segment is scheduled to be held on February 24.
Senior state BJP leader Golak Mohapatra alleged that if at all a party flag was recovered from the man, it was “planted by BJD workers”.
State BJP president Basant Panda said Meher did not belong to the party.
The incident drew condemnation from leaders of both the ruling BJD, and the opposition BJP and Congress.
“It is an unfortunate incident. It appears to be sponsored as the BJP is losing the election in Bijepur,” BJD vice-president and Odisha minister S N Patro told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
“We strongly condemn it. There is no place for violence in a democracy. It is wrong to point fingers at the BJP for the shoe throwing incident without a proper investigation,” BJP spokesman Sajan Sharma said.
Congress spokesman Debasish Patnaik said a bad trend had been set in Odisha.
The incident comes three weeks after a woman hurled eggs at Patnaik while he was addressing a meeting at Talasari beach festival in Balasore district on January 31.
The woman was arrested and sent to jail, but the police later withdrew the criminal case against her on Patnaik’s insistence.