It looks straight out of The Arabian Nights. Since l’affaire Penthapala burst on to the scene in panchayat poll-bound Odisha 10 days ago, each day has brought a fresh story, each more startling than the previous one. It has got to a stage where news on what is happening on the election front in the rest of the state has been relegated to the background by the past-paced developments in this hitherto little known panchayat in politically volatile Kendrapara district.
First came the allegation of skullduggery against the local BDO, who allegedly connived with Kendrapara MLA Kishor Tarai in fraudulently rejecting the nominations of two candidates to ensure that the MLA’s wife remained the lone woman standing in the election for panchayat samiti member from the Penthapala panchayat. Hardly had the storm kicked up by the Congress charge subsided when it was revealed that there were glaring discrepancies in the affidavits filed by the two-time MLA in 2004 and 2014 and the one filed by his wife as a candidate for the ongoing panchayat elections. In the 10 year-period between 2004 and 2014, his father transformed himself from Bimbadhar Tarai to Bimal Tarai. Perhaps following in the footsteps of her father-in-law, the MLA’s wife metamorphosed herself from Kabita (as in her husband’s affidavit filed during the last Assembly elections in 2014) to Babita – as per her own affidavit for the panchayat polls.
A piece of land purchased in her name in Pattamundai in 2006 also named her as Babita. Curiously, the PAN card no of his wife ‘Kabita’ submitted by her husband during the 2014 polls has now been found to have been issued in the name of Babita! As if this was not enough, the cost of the piece of land bought for Rs 21.10 lakhs in 2006 and registered in the name of Babita mysteriously came down to a measly Rs 2 lakh in the 2014 affidavit filed by Kishor Tarai. Real estate prices have never been known to crash this drastically!