Pradip Majhi, working president of Congress in Odisha is under the scanner of police over allegations that he directed his party workers to set afire public properties with petrol and diesel over a protest on alleged gang rape and murder of a minor girl.

Odisha PCC working president and former Nabarangpur MP, Pradip Majhi on Thursday was caught on camera reportedly directing his party workers on mobile phone to set afire everything immediately during a 12-hour bandh call organised by his party.

Majhi had called the bandh on Thursday across the district to protest the alleged rape and murder of a 16-year-old Dalit girl who had gone missing from her home on the night of December 13. The girl’s body was found in a paddyfield the next morning. Police had arrested a youth but the protestors demanded Rs 20 lakh compensation for the teenager’s family.

Police officials said Majhi was leading a protest near Kaunriaguda Chhak of Nabarangpur town in the morning when he was asked to withdraw agitation. As the Congress leader had an altercation with a cop, Majhi reportedly called up one of his followers and asked them to keep petrol and diesel ready.

“Keep petrol and diesel ready. The moment you get an order, set everything on fire. We’ll see what happens next,” Majhi reportedly was found ordering someone over the phone. Later an old car that was not in use for a long time was set afire by protestors at Ambedkar Chhak.

Nabarangpur SP Kusalkar Nitin Dagdu said a case has been lodged against the senior Congress leader for inciting violence. “Investigation is on and strict action will be taken against him,” said the SP. The SP said there was hardly any support to the bandh as the local traders association opened their shops.

An unrepentant Majhi said he had indeed asked his party workers to set everything on fire. “I don’t believe in democracy anymore. Women and girls are being raped during BJD government rule and I cannot keep quiet. First a minor girl in Kunduli was gangraped by jawans. Now, another minor girl was gang raped and murdered in Nabarangpur. Thirteen days have elapsed but the post mortem report of the minor girl is yet to be out. What are the doctors, home department and the government doing? Do you expect me to sit silent,” asked Majhi.

Hailing from a political family, 43-year-old Majhi made a name for himself in Nabarangpur in July 2004 when he put the district administration in the dock over the death of 13 tribal children due to malnutrition.

Majhi, then a young law student of Atma Ram Sanatan College in Delhi University, built a campaign around the death of the children to turn on the heat on the Naveen Patnaik government that eventually forced the state government to open anganwadi centres in Nabarangpur district.

Though his father Bhagaban Majhi, a close associate of former chief minister Biju Patnaik, was a Rajya Sabha MP from the erstwhile Janata Dal between 1994 and 2000, the younger Majhi became the chairman of Nabarangpur Zilla Parishad on Congress ticket in 2006.

It was in 2008, when he was noticed by Rahul Gandhi as he stood first among all the candidates of Odisha in Rahul’s Talent Search programme to spot young leaders. In January 2009, he was made one of the secretaries of Indian Youth Congress and put in-charge of Jharkhand.

Biju Janata Dal MP from Nabarangpur, Ramesh Majhi condemned the protest saying it does not augur well if a people’s representative instigates party workers to wreak violence. He is talking like a terrorist, It seems he is yet to get over his loss of Lok Sabha elections in May this year,” said the BJD MP.

Of late Majhi’s political fortunes have been on a decline after he lost the Lok Sabha poll from Nabarangpur constituency this year. His proximity to the Gandhis seems to have been affected somewhat after software engineer-turned-politician Saptagiri Ulaka won the Lok Sabha election from Koraput seat this year.