With the opposition raising questions over a 'mysterious woman' accompanying Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to his visit to Vatican City last year, the Biju Janata Dal chief clarified that the woman is named Shradha and she is his physiotherapist.
Clearing the air before the end of the monsoon session on Tuesday, the CM said, "Shradha is a physiotherapist sent by my sister late Gita Mehta to take care of my physical fitness."
"She (Shradha) has neither been allotted government quarters nor have her travel bill been paid by government of Odisha. We should use the precious time in this august House to debate on issues of public interest," he added.
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party had raised the issue of a "mysterious woman accompanying the CM" both inside and outside the House after photographs and videos of their visit to Vatican City in June last year recently surfaced on social media.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Jaynarayan Mishra of the BJP had raised the issue in the assembly, but his statement was not recorded due to din in the House. Mishra sought to know who was Shradha and alleged that she was allotted a government house.
Mishra also alleged that Shradha had accompanied Patnaik to Vatican City during the CM's visit to seek the blessings of Pope Francis on June 22, 2022. He was officially accompanied by his private secretary V K Pandian to meet the Pope on the third day of his trip to Italy. He was in Italy at the invitation of the World Food Programme.
However, opposition BJP had raised questions after videos and photographs showing Shradha greeting the Pope after Patnaik and Pandian went viral on social media.
Kalahandi's BJP MP Basanta Panda and Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi raised questions about the "mysterious woman".
"When Leader of Opposition, Sri Jaynarayan Mishra & senior MP, Sri @basantpandabjp ask abt a MYSTERIOUS WOMAN accompanying CM to the Vatican and the reasons for her unhindered access to Naveen Nivas, they are described as 'mad' by BJD spokesmen!" Sarangi wrote on X.
"There are media reports suggesting that she could be a nurse or therapist. If this were true, this is all the more concerning and the CM of an important State cannot be left to private and secretive treatment. Who selected this therapist? What kind of therapy is going on?" Sarangi added.