Bhubaneswar: Former Union minister Srikant Kumar Jena was expelled by the Congress on Saturday for issuing anti-party statements to the media regarding the mining scam in Odisha.

Jena, who was a minister in the UPA government, and Dalit leader Krushna Chandra Sagaria, who represented Koraput in the Odisha Assembly, were expelled from the primary membership of the Congress.

The Odisha Congress's disciplinary committee convener Ananta Prasad Sethi made the announcement late at night.

"Both Jena and Sagaria have been expelled from the party as per the approval of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). They also issued remarks against OPCC (Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee) functionaries," Sethi said in a statement.

Jena claimed that Congress president Rahul Gandhi totally supported the collusion with Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to encourage the rule of the two Patnaik families— that of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and the state Congress president Niranjan Patnaik.

The first demand that Jena put forth after being appointed as the chairman of the state’s manifesto committee was that the party should declare a tribal, scheduled caste or other backward caste person as its 2019 chief ministerial candidate whereas Naveen, a close associate of the late Congress chief minister JB Patnaik, does not have any of these qualifications.

Jena also wanted all mining leases to be cancelled but Naveen’s brother and his extended family run a host of successful businesses, among which the most profitable is mining.

Due to these conflicts, Jena was eventually removed from the post in December and at a press conference on Sunday, Jena accused the Patnaiks.

“I've not left the party. The party decided to expel me and it is Rahul Gandhi who took this decision to expel me from the party. I took a stand regarding the mining mafia and Naveen Patnaik. And he in fact is the main character behind the mining scam that took place in the past 10 years. It was one of the major mining scams not only in the state but in the entire country. The scam is of more than Rs 2 lakh crore. They have to deposit Rs 600 crore for the illegal money operations. So I've been telling Rahul Gandhi at least don't support them,” Jena told MyNation.

“I would choose people of Orissa (Odisha) who are living in poverty. The Congress party used to be on the side of the people, not on the side of the ones who have looted the state. The two Patnaik families have been ruling the state for the past 40 years. But he (Rahul Gandhi) chose to present reports to the president and the Odisha court and stand by them (the mafia) and not the people. So I raised objection to that and then I saw in the news channels yesterday night that I've been expelled from the party,” he added.

When asked whether he has grievances against Rahul or the entire Congress, Jena replied, “In December 2018, I wrote a letter explaining the situation prevailing in the state for the past 40 years. I wrote about poverty and the backwardness of the state to improve it. The Congress had to take actions but we saw Naveen Patnaik join the Rajya Sabha overnight. I met him (Rahul Gandhi) personally, explained the situation but he didn't take any actionand instead supported them (BJD).

“Where's the zero tolerance towards corruption then? In the next 20 years, if they (BJD) keep on ruling, it will become the poorest state of the country. I've been sending this issue to Rahul Gandhi and he didn't listen. He finally chose to identify himself with those people.”

In a press conference, Jena had earlier threatened to expose Rahul to the people when he visits Odisha later this month.

“Why did he join hands with these kind of people? I've never seen this kind of a situation. If this man creates such an impression on the party then what impression will the people have? What is the compulsion of Rahul Gandhi to involve himself with these kinds of people? If he is fighting against corruption in the country, why is he compromising with it in the state?” he asked.

“I'll be explaining to the people and as he is coming on 25th of this month, both before and after that, I'll be going to the people and explain everything. I'll ask him why did he appoint such a person and why did he have to choose Naveen Patnaik. What's the point of the communist party then?” Jena added.

When asked if he had proof to his claim the former Union minister said “What was my crime? I have only said when he (Rahul) appointed me as the chairman of the manifesto committee that if the Congress party comes to power then these mining mafias will have to be sent to jail and their properties will have to be sealed. The Congress along with the BJD didn't agree to approve this. The second thing which I objected to was electing Patnaik again as the chief minister despite their two families governing for 40 years already. There are so many highly qualified and able SC/ST/OBCs too in the state but Naveen said, ‘I'm a Patnaik, so I'll be appointed as the chief minister’.”

Jena said, “ The (Rs) 2 lakh crore scam is only based on iron ore and manganese and the Patnaik family has already deposited (Rs) 600 crore. Can you even imagine this? The court has also condemned him. In my opinion, if the pilot himself is hijacking the plane then what can we do? That is the situation now. Let the people of India know that the biggest mining scam operator is the people's president whom Rahul Gandhi supports. That's my concern. I objected to that and that's why I was sacked from the party.”