Ridiculing ruling BJD's 'Swabhiman' rally in Delhi, senior Congress leader and former minister Niranjan Patnaik on Wednesday asked Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to either learn Odia or quit the state.
"It is ironical that a Chief Minister, and perhaps the only one in Indian history, who cannot speak, read or write the state's official language is talking of Odia 'Swabhiman," Patnaik told reporters here.
Stating that 'Swabhiman' to any Odia means economic development and protecting the state's language and culture, the former state Congress chief questioned chief minister's commitment for Odisha and talk of fighting for its 'Swabhiman' despite refusing to learn Odia after 14 years in power.
To Naveen Patnaik's call of 'Delhi Chalo' for BJD's swabhiman rally demanding special category status for the state, Niranjan asked the chief minister to "Odisha Chodo (quit Odisha) if you are unable to learn Odia language."
The Congress leader said he has also shot off a letter to Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal demanding an amendment to Article 173 of the Constitution to make it mandatory for all members of the state assembly to be able to read, write and speak the language of the state.
Copies of the letter are being sent to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and Presidents of all political parties in Odisha for generating a debate on this issue, he said.
Patnaik said it is astoundingly ironical that a person can't become a sarpanch in Odisha without knowing Odia, but he can be an MLA, Minister or even Chief Minister!
On the demand for special category status, he said not merely Odisha, but all the backward states are demanding Special category status and Congress has supported the demand.
"As the matter is under consideration by an expert committee headed by Raghuram Rajan, the Chief Minister's swabhiman rally at Delhi is an unnecessary gimmick", he said.
Patnaik said no one should be eligible to be MLA or MLC without knowing the official language of the state.
In fact, he said this loophole in the constitution needs to be plugged by a suitable amendment to Article 173 of the Constitution of India.