By Priya Ranjan Sahu
It has been five days since Cyclone Fani hit Odisha hard. The ‘extremely severe cyclonic storm’ has left 41 persons dead, flattened thousands of houses, uprooted lakhs of trees, severely damaged electricity and mobile network. It has destroyed crops and croplands.
Considering the ferocity of Cyclone Fani, the death toll has been quite low as the government evacuated over 11 lakh people from 15 coastal and northern districts. Among all districts, Puri, Khurda and Cuttack have been worst hit by the cyclone.
People are yet to come out of the ordeal post cyclone. Bhubaneswar and Puri are without electricity for the past five days. Water is scarce. Food stuff is vanishing from the market. People at large are going through untold suffering.
At such a critical time, a seasoned politician like Bijoy Mohapatra should have behaved like a statesman. But he is strangely concerned only about politics and elections – more specifically Patkura assembly seat, from where he is contesting as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate.
Patkura assembly seat comes under Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency, which went to polls in the fourth and last phase of elections in Odisha. The Lok Sabha and assembly polls were held simultaneously in the state.
However, the election for Patkura assembly seat was held up due to the death of the Biju Janata Dal candidate Bed Prakash Agrawal. The Election Commission rescheduled the election for the seat on May 19, when the seventh and final phase of elections will be held across India. The BJD has fielded Agrawal’s wife Sabitri Agrawal as its candidate.
After the initial alerts about Cyclone Fani came, Odisha chief minister met chief election commissioner Sunil Arora in New Delhi on April 30 and requested him to postpone the election for Patkura. BJP leaders including Mohapatra cried foul and accused Patnaik of conspiracy to avoid defeat in the assembly seat. On the other hand, Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan met the CEC urging him to hold the elections as scheduled, on May 19.
The BJP leaders probably could not foresee what Patnaik could. The devastation in the aftermath has proved that Patnaik was quite right about his assessment about the trail of destruction the cyclone would leave in Odisha. The Election Commission too understood the gravity of the situation and postponed the election for Patkura for 60 days.
The decision of the EC has clearly not gone down well with Mohapatra. On Tuesday, he questioned the decision and said that the EC was misled by vested interests (read Patnaik) who provided wrong information about the ground situation to postpone the election. He added that the life is normal in Patkura.
Thank God! So Mohapatra thinks elections could be held in Patkura, though people in other parts of coastal Odisha are crying for help!
One may sympathise with Mohapatra because since leaving the BJD in 2000, he has faced a lot of hardship politically. One may have respect for him due to the fact that despite not winning an election in the last 19 years, he has still retained his political relevance.
But this time, Mohapatra’s claims of ‘conspiracy’ fall flat as he has failed to take notice of overall impact of Cyclone Fani across Odisha. He had a chance to speak for Odisha; he chose to speak for Patkura only.