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Odisha chief minister announces pacca houses to all families that lost their houses due to Cyclone Fani

Samikhsya Bureau

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday announced that all families whose houses have been completely or substantially damaged due to Cyclone Fani would be sanctioned pacca houses.

In a statement, Patnaik said the assessment of damage of houses would begin from May 15. In all the extremely severely affected blocks, he said, senior officers would be appointed to supervise the assessment process and work order distribution to the beneficiaries would begin from June 1. “I assure that all out efforts will be put so that not a single person will be left out,” Patnaik said.

On Saturday, Patnaik had announced a Rs.1,600 crore package for people hit by the cyclone. The package included agriculture input subsidy to small and marginal farmers who have suffered crop loss of 33 per cent or more, incentive to purchase boats and nets to fishermen and financial assistance to women self-help groups. Besides, it also included waiving off school and examination fees up to high school level in the affected areas.

Cyclone Fani hit almost a half of Odisha’s district after making its landfall in Puri on May 3. At least 43 people have been killed due to the cyclone that has damaged thousands of houses, uprooted lakhs of trees, destroyed the power and communication network. Puri, Khurda, which includes the capital city of Bhubaneswar, and Cuttack districts have been worst affected by the fury of the cyclone.

 

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Bijoy Mohapatra should have behaved like a statesman in the time of Cyclone Fani

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.

 

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Both Naveen Patnaik and Narendra Modi are in voters’ mind in Odisha. But who will win?

Samikhsya Bureau

The ruling Biju Janata Dal seems to be facing its toughest challenge so far in six Lok Sabha constituencies and 42 assembly constituencies under them that will go to polls in the third phase on April 23. The Lok Sabha constituencies are Puri, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur and Keonjhar.

As feedback from the ground indicates, the first two phases comprising nine Lok Sabha and 63 assembly seats were relatively easy for the BJD as compared to the six Lok Sabha and 42 assembly seats. In most Lok Sabha seats there was a ‘Modi factor’ among the youth, though it was most visible in Kalahandi. However, as the polling date got nearer, the BJD’s well-oiled election machinery worked hard with a view to win over the voters.

However, in the assembly segments under the six Lok Sabha seats slated to go to polls in the third phase, a binary has developed in which many voters have said that they would vote for the BJD (read Naveen Patnaik) in assembly and for BJP (read Narendra Modi) in Lok Sabha.

The spilt voting narrative (BJD in assembly, BJP in Lok Sabha) is undoubtedly a a backhanded compliment for Patnaik, who seems to be popular in spite of being in power for the past 19 years. But it has also created hardship for the BJD.

The “vote for BJP in Lok Sabha” narrative has its base in Pulwama and Balakot attacks and Modi’s supposed strongman image when it comes to national security. Though the Pulmama-Balakot profile of the BJP did not cut much ice in the Hindi heartland states like Uttar Pradesh, it has surprisingly worked in Odisha.

That is because the BJD, a regional party, did not feel the need to create a counter-narrative. Such a narrative could have been countered by the Congress, but it was not in a position to do so.

National Congress leaders have left the state Congress to fend for itself. While Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and several Union ministers have visited Odisha, the national Congress leaders have mostly ignored the state.

Of late, however, the BJD realised its mistake and is trying to take corrective measures to influence voters to vote for its Lok Sabha candidates. Patnaik, who is on a whirlwind tour of the state, has stepped up his attacks on the BJP as well as Modi, and is making appeals to people to send more BJD Lok Sabha MPs to Parliament.

Interestingly, while the BJP has the advantage of a ‘Modi wave’ as far as Lok Sabha is concerned, it is short of cadres at the ground level to convert that advantage to votes.

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Naveen says Modi doesn’t deserve second chance as PM, prepares for kingmaker role at Centre

Samikhsya Bureau

While speaking to a national news channel during the election campaign for the second phase, Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik said three important things.

First, when asked about his opinion about Narendra Modi, Patnaik said he did not deserve a second chance as the Prime Minister. Second, about Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the Odisha chief minister said that he had to mature a bit more. Third, on the question of his support to a party forming government at the Centre, Patnaik said the BJD would support any party that supports the “just and legitimate” demands of Odisha.

These statements from Patnaik are significant, especially after the first phase of polling for four Lok Sabha and 28 assembly seats is over. Patnaik’s observations hint that he might have got positive feedback from the ground about BJD doing well in the state, and he is now planning to play a bigger role, that of a kingmaker, in the formation of the next government at the Centre.

The BJD won 20 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. But the BJD MPs mostly stayed away from being overtly supportive of any party or coalition at the Centre keeping in line with the party’s “equidistance” stand. Nonetheless, they extended “issue based” support to some bills initiated by the National Democratic Alliance government headed by Modi.

But, it seems, after 2019 the BJD leadership has probably decided to intervene more forcefully at the Centre.

Parties like BJD, Trinamul Congress, Telengana Rashtra Samithi, YSR Congress are not attached to either the NDA or United Progressive Alliance led by the Congress, and they hold a sizable chunk of seats.

Many surveys by TV channels, including those loyal to the NDA government, have predicted a hung Parliament after 2019 elections. As most have said that the BJP might emerge as the largest party, it would be awfully short of majority. It may look out for support from the unattached regional parties including the BJD.

In the eventuality of the BJP being short of majority, Patnaik may back the NDA but not Modi, considering his opinion on latter’s second term. Importantly, Patnaik has not spoken very adversely about Gandhi, keeping the options open for post-poll dalliance with the UPA as well.

 

 

 

 

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Modi and Naveen will determine outcome of fierce three-cornered contest in Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat

Samikhsya Bureau

Among all Lok Sabha constituencies going for polls in the first phase, the most complex is Kalahandi where three veterans Bhakta Charan Das of Congress, Pushpendra Singh Deo of BIju Janata Dal and Basant Panda of Bharatiya Janata Party have been pitted against each other.

The constituency comprises five assembly segments of Kalahandi district and two of Nuapada district. Surprisingly, a ‘Modi factor’ is markedly visible in the assembly segments under Kalahandi district while it is completely missing in segments under Nuapada district, though Panda, who is state BJP president, belongs to the latter district.

The supposed Modi factor, however, seems to be limited to Lok Sabha election while voters have preference different parties for assembly election. At the assembly level, the BJD, BJP and Congress have their own inherent strength, and that will reflect the voting pattern for the Lok Sabha candidates.

In the 2014 elections, there was fierce three-cornered contest between BJD’s Arka Keshari Deo, BJP’s Pradipta Naik and Congress Bhakta Charan Das. Deo had polled over 3.72 lakh votes while both Naik and Das polled more than 3 lakh votes each.

This time Deo has been denied ticket and in his place Pushpendra Singh, the sitting MLA of Dharamgarh assembly segment, has been fielded by the BJD. On the other hand, the BJP has fieled its state president Panda in place of Naik, who has been chosen to contest Bhabanipatna assembly segment.

On their own strength, among all three Lok Sabha candidates Panda seems to be weakest as the BJP is lagging behind in Nuapada and Khariar segments of Nuapada, his home district. But he may be benefited by the supposed Modi wave in all five segments in Kalahandi.

Das, a powerful Dalit leader of Odisha, has represented Kalahandi in Lok Sabha twice, and has his own base and fixed votes. It is a challenge for him to go beyond his fixed votes.

In the 2014 elections, the BJD won four out of seven assembly seats under Kalahandi Lok Sabha. But the party received a jolt in the zilla parishad election when it drew a blank while the BJP bagged 25 out of 34 seats. The challenge Puspendra Singh Deo, said to be a good organisation man, is to not only win the Lok Sabha seat but revive the party’s base. Puspendra’s biggest advantage is that the party has votes evenly spread out across all seven assembly segments.

Apparently, chief minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik was aware of the ruling party’s sticky position in Kalahandi. He went on a two-day whirlwind tour of Kalahandi and Nuapada from Monday holding rallies and addressing crowds at several place. It remains to be seen if Patnaik’s outreach yields dividends for the BJD, considering the fact that the women voters still stand solidly behind the chief minister.

 

 

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Naveen Patnaik knits dreams of peace for people pounded by naxal menace

Samikhsya Bureau

Naveen plays to the gallery in a repeat of Ganjam, slams NDA for shedding crocodile tears. In his novel mode of campaign of flying in to the sky, riding a bus to addressing public meetings, Naveen Patnaik on Friday in a takedown exercise took on his rivals straight to categorise them as political opportunists .

Landing at the empire of the Left ultras in Kalimela, in Malkangiri, Patnaik adopted an offensive stance to take on the Central leaders making a beeline to Odisha just for votes. The BJD supremo in his clinically affected Odia accent reiterated that, none of these top leaders had any compassion for the people of Odisha when the state face the menace of drought, oceanic disorders like cyclone or fury of flood.

But now they fly in like bees to beg votes. In a way Patnaik took this as an opportunity to tell the people there that, his government was always there and will be there as a friend to partner their woes and happiness.

Timing his rhetoric he delved into the farmers issue to assure the people about his concern and described a roadmap for the future. In fact Patnaik had sometime back made the mark by the opening of the Gurupriya bridge to bridge the people of the cut off areas with the mainland after several decades of isolation.

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Naveen renominates Mahatab for Cuttack LS, drops finance minister in fresh list

Putting at rest all speculations, BJD supremo and chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday renominated five time sitting MP Bhartruhari Mahatab for Cuttack Lok Sabha seat but denied party ticket to finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera.
With Mahatab in the fray again, the BJD had so far released 19 of the 21 Lok sabha seats and yet to finalise the candidates for Dhenkanal and Keonjhar (ST) seat.

Similarly, with the release of nine names for assembly seats, the BJD had completed the candidates list in 135 of the total 147 Assembly seat.

State finance minister Behera was denied party ticket from Jaydev assembly seat, which went to former minister Arabinda Dhali.

Besides, Behera, the other three sitting MLAs dropped in the fresh list of nine candidates for assembly seat are Saiba Sunshi Kumar Hansda (Rairangpur), Debashis Nayak ( Bari) and Praveen Chandra Bhanj Deo (Moroda).

Debashis Nayak, considered as trusted man of Patnaik, was also denied party ticket to contest Bari assembly seat and in his place,the party nominated Sunanda Das to seek election.

Former minister and member of Mayurbhanj royal family Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo was also denied party ticket from Morada and in his place the party nominated Raj Kishore Das, who recently resigned from the BJP and joined the BJD.
However, before the BJD announced the candidate list, Bhanja Deo resigned from the primary membership of the party and as BJD’s Mayurbhanj district president alleging large scale indiscipline in the party in which he said the senior leaders were being ignored.

The Moroda sitting MLA had also hinted that the party decided to nominate a person who recently shifted his loyalty and defeated thrice from the seat in the past.

Mahatab who has been adjudged as the best Parliamentarian, and winning the Cuttack Lok Sabha seat consecutively in a row for five times since 1998 Lok sabha elections , will now take on former CRPF director general and also former Odisha DGP Prakash Mishra who has been nominated by BJP for the seat.

The opposition Congress is yet to announce its candidate for Cuttack Lok Sabha seat.

The BJD had so far retained the Lok Sabha seat of four sitting MPs. They are KalikeshNarayan Singh Deo (Balangir), Rabindra Kumar Jena (Balasore), Pinaki Mishra (Puri) and Bhartruhari Mahatab (Cuttack).
Out of 19 Lok sabha seats declared so far, the BJD had dropped 12 sitting MPs.

Sitting BJD MP Tathagat Satpathy from Dhenkanal Lok Sabha seat had already announced his retirement from active politics to concentrate on his profession in journalism. He is the editors of Odia daily Dharitri and English daily Orissa Post. (UNI)

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Amit shah raises Ratna Bhandar issue, calls for ouster of ‘corrupt’ Naveen govt

Samikhsya Bureau

Opening his campaign for Odisha at Paralakhemundi today, BJP President Amit Shah came down heavily on the state’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government for its alleged inefficiency, corruption, Jagannath temple ratna bhandar issue among others and urged the public to uproot the government in the upcoming polls.

“This is a corrupt and inefficient government in the state that has neglected western & central Odisha. Even after getting plenty of funds, they are unable to deliver meaningful progress. Corruption and inefficiency are its hallmarks. They are so engrossed in corruption that even Ratna Bhandar of Lord Jagannath is not safe here,” said Shah addressing the Vijay Sankalp Samabesh here.

Taking his criticism a step further, he took personal jibes at Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and ridiculed him for his inability to speak the language of the state.

“It’s unfortunate that even after 19 years of rule in Odisha, Naveen babu can’t speak Odia without reading out from a script. How can someone solve your problems when he doesn’t even know your language,” he questioned.

He went on to advise the people to elect a CM that can understand the feelings & emotions of the denizens.

“I urge the people of Odisha to not repeat the same mistake by electing BJD once again. You have given 19 years to BJD & other parties too in the past. Give BJP a chance & in five years we will make Odisha the No. 1 state,” he said while urging the crowd to uproot the Naveen government from the State.

He also asked the voters to vote for BJP and Narendra Modi in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and explained that fast progress is only attainable when the “double engine” governments of the same party at both state and center levels work in tandem.

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Is Pramila Bisoi not the kind of Lok Sabha member we would like to represent us ?

By Priya Ranjan Sahu

Among all Lok Sabha candidates from all parties in the upcoming general elections in Odisha, the most interesting one is Pramila Bisoi, who has been handpicked by chief minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik from Aska.

The 70-year-old self-help group leader comes across as a typical affectionate ‘Berhampuria Mausi’ (aunt from Berhampur). She has studied up to Class 2 and hails from a poorer background. Her family includes husband Banchhanidi Bisoi, a retired fourth-class irrigation department employee, two sons, two daughters and 17 grandchildren. Her elder son sells tea for a living, while the younger son owns a motorcycle garage.

But at the same time, Bisoi is a self-help group leader of repute. She heads a cluster of 3,500 SHGs in Ganjam district.

But Bisoi never expected that Patnaik would choose her to contest for Aska Lok Sabha seat. It is one of the prestigious Lok Sabha constituency as one of its assembly segment, Hinjili, is represented by Patnaik himself.

When she got a call from Naveen Nivas, Patnaik’s residence in Bhubaneswar, now the nerve centre of all political activities, she thought that she would be given some award for social work. “When the chief minister asked me to contest for Lok Sabha, I was floored,” she says.

Soon after Patnaik announced Bisoi’s name for Aska, most lauded the decision. However, many also raised questions about her lack of education. She takes the ridicule about her education with a pinch of salt. “So what if I am not educated formally. I can read and write, and speak at public meetings. I have learnt and am still learning from my experiences,” says Bisoi, who’s known in the area for writing poems on social issues.

And indeed her strength and confidence come from her vast experience spanning half a century. As her family was poor, she started cultivation in an acre of land in Chermaria village of Ganjam district. But soon social issues of the area caught up her attention.

When she first time she intervened socially, it was to protect a denuded hill near Chermaria along with other women of the village. Due to their efforts, the hill got back its forest and became famous as a habitat for peacocks and other animals.

In 2001, she led the village women to found the Satasankha Swayam Sebika Sangha, an SHG to address livelihood issues of women. The efforts of the women in the field of cottage industry and savings led to Bisoi forming another 100 women SHGs in Aska district in the next few years.

Bisoi says that now she is not alone and the area has produced many other women leaders. She gives its credit to Mission Shakti, a government programme launched by Patnaik for women, as it created the right kind of atmosphere to ensure women became self-sufficient and self-reliant. “Now after Patnaik reserved 50 per cent seats in panchayati raj institutions, many women have been elected to panchayats and blocks,” she says.

Bisoi is popularly known as ‘Pari Ma’ among people in the area, who say that besides forest protection, she has been instrumental in planting of over two lakh trees. She says creating forest has been a passion for her. She believes that more forest leads to better rainfall and in the process better crops for the farmers.

What are her plans for Aska if she becomes the MP? Bisoi says she will work towards creating more cottages and handicraft industries focused on making toys, dry edibles and other things Ganjam is known for. “It will keep more and more women engaged in productive works along with men,” she says.

When a supposedly unlettered woman is so clear in her vision and has done so much for society, why do we need so called educated people, who have been elected earlier and done nothing? At least, Bisoi is much more preferable to elites like Hema Malini and Jaya Prada, who are infamous for blink-and-miss appearances in the areas that they represent in Lok Sabha.

Should all political parties not choose candidates like Bisoi ?

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Biju Janata Dal announces 18 candidates for third and fourth phase assembly polls

Samikhsya Bureau

Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Friday announced the candidates list for third and fourth phase assembly polls. Candidates’ list for 18 assembly constituencies have been announced in this phase.

The list is as follows:

1- Puri: Maheswar Mohanty
2- Jatani: Bibhuti Balabantaray
3- Barabati-Cuttack: Debasis Samantaray
4- Cuttack Sadar: Chandra Sarathi Behera
5- Tirtol: Bishnu Das
6- Rengali: Reena Tanti
7- Jashipur: Golak Bihari Nayak
8- Bangiriposhi: Sudam Marandi
9- Saraskana: Amar Singh Tudu
10-Udala: Srinath Soren
11-Balasore: Jiban Pradip Das
12-Jaleswar: Aswini Kumar Patra
13-Badasahi: Brundaban Das
14-Bhadrak: Sanjeev Malik
15-Soro: Parsuram Dhada
16-Badachana: Amar Prasad Satpathy
17-Rajnagar: Dhruba Sahu
18-Paradeep: Sambit Routray

It may be mentioned here that the state will go to poll in four phases starting April 11.

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Dharmendra Pradhan seeks clarification from Naveen over CBI interrogation

Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today accused Biju Janata Dal Supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of hiding facts in his nomination papers filed for the Hinjli Assembly seat.

Addressing newsmen in Bhubaneswar, Mr Pradhan alleged that the Chief Minister has not mentioned in his nomination papers about his interrogation by the central investigating agency CBI on November 25,2017 in connection with the allotment of a coal block to a ghost company owned by one G D Daga while he was in charge of the Union Coal Ministry.

The Union Minister said M/s Central Collieries Ltd, a Nagpur based company was allotted the Telki Jena Bolera Coal Block on April 3,1998 while the company was registered in January 1999.

Mr Pradhan asked the Chief Minister to say whether he has been interrogated by the CBI or not if yes why he has not mentioned it in his affidavit submitted along with his nomination paper for Hinjili Assembly seat.

He said the Chief Minister must also clarify who is A G Daga and in what way he is related to him.

Recently, one Baibhav Burma in a petition urged the Apex court to expedite the case on the allotment of Telki Jena Bolera coal block since the CBI had interrogated Mr.Patnaik way back in 2017.

Mr Pradhan also criticized the Odisha DGP and Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Commissioner of Police for indulging more in politics and busy in collecting data to protect the image of BJD President and chief Minister.

To counter the Union Minister, the ruling BJD also at a news conference asked Mr. Pradhan to reply to nine questions which included among other, the Vapyam scam, booking of guest house for accused in Laxmidhar dutta murder case, allotment of Petol pump to gangster Tito in Kendrapara and his relations with two gangsters in Cuttack.

BJD Spokesperson Sasmit patra questioned the Union Minister for raising the issue of CBI interrogation after two years.
BJD Lok Sabha Member Pianaki Mishra yesterday had ruled out any role of Mr Naveen Patnaik in the allotment of coal block.
He said Mr Patnaik was in charge of Coal Ministry for two to three months and he has no role in allotment of coal block. (UNI)

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A three-cornered contest between BJD, Congress and BJP is poised to make Odisha elections exciting

By Priya Ranjan Sahu

After the announcement of dates for elections by the Election Commission on March 10, parties in Odisha have shifted to top gear as the state will have simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and assembly.

As it was in 2014, three main political forces – the ruling Biju Janata Dal, main opposition Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party – will fight it out in the elections. As usual, the BJD is at the forefront but, this time, the BJP, which rules the Centre, is seemingly in a belligerent mood. A resource-starved Congress, which had been consistently losing base since it lost power in the state in 2000, on the other hand is fighting an existential crisis and trying to revive lost glory.

On the surface, the BJD looks well-entrenched in the state, despite BJP national president Amit Shah’s supposed ‘Mission 120 +’ targeted at 120 out of 147 seats in Odisha assembly. Shah coined the slogan in 2017 following the BJP’s success in the zilla parishad elections in which the national party edged past Congress to finish runners up to the BJD.

BJP’s Look East strategy

As such, since the Modi government came to power at the Centre in 2014, the BJP has clearly its focus on Odisha as part of its ‘Look East’ strategy that also comprises West Bengal and Northeast. Almost all central ministers including Prime Minister Narendra Modi have repeatedly toured Odisha at different times, while Shah has stressed on increasing the number of party cadres to take on the might of the BJD.

In 2017, the BJP did unnerve the BJD with its success in zilla parishad election by getting 297 seats edging past the Congress. The BJP’s tally in 2012 zilla parishad election was just 36.

Though the BJD still dominated the rural body with 473 seats, Patnaik lost no time in chalking out a counter-strategy to strengthen the BJD’s grassroots base by holding parleys with ministers, party leaders and workers. As Shah launched the BJP’s ‘Mo Booth Sabuthu Majbooth’ (my booth is the strongest) campaign to galvanise cadres at the booth level, BJD came up with Ama Gaon Ama Bikash (our village our development) campaign, with a view to preparing grassroots cadres for 2019.

The BJD’s efforts paid off with the party comfortably winning a bye-election to zilla parishad in Nuapada district and two municipality wards in Deogarh district in 2017. A year later, the BJD again trounced the BJP in the much hyped Bijepur assembly bye-election.

While the BJD and BJP were locked in fierce battle at the ground and in television studios, the strife-torn Congress was fighting for its own survival. After losing to Patnaik 19 years back, the Congress has been on a downward slide. In 2011, the Congress high command made former minister Niranjan Patnaik, said to be a resourceful man though not a charismatic leader, the president of the state unit. As the state Congress seemed to look up under his leadership, he was abruptly replaced by Prasad Harichandan as a result of intense infighting among state leaders.

Harichandan remained the state Congress chief for a long time even after the party’s dismal performance in 2014 elections. Finally, the party high command brought back Niranjan Patnaik in early 2018 to put the party back on the track.

Fluctuating political atmosphere

As the 2019 elections drew nearer, Odisha witnessed fluctuating political atmosphere which made the race between the three major parties more interesting. In December last year, the BJP received a jolt after veterans Bijoy Mohapatra and Dilip Ray quit the party. On the other hand, Congress too had its share of setback when one of its influential MLAs, Naba Kishore Das, joined the BJD.

The BJD too has its anxious moments as former party MP from Kendrapara, Baijayanta Panda, and former minister Damodar Rout crossed over to the BJP recently. Panda may not exactly a political heavyweight at the ground, but Odisha’s biggest TV channel, OTV, is owned by him. On the other hand, Rout is said to have a good base in in Jagatsinghpur district.

Besides, Tathagata Satpathy, BJD MP from Dhenkanal, quitting politics too has come as a surprise for many leaders in the party. Satpathy, who owns large circulated Odia daily Dharitri, and English daily Odisha Post, said that he decided to quit politics to devote time to journalism.

Naveen Patnaik’s announcement to reserve 33% of the Lok Sabha seats – seven out of total 21 Lok Sabha seats – for women has also made many sitting BJD apprehensive. Nabarangpur MP Balbhadra Majhi resigned from the party saying that he was “ignored, neglected and cheated”. More may follow suit.

“But all these will not make any difference because in the BJD it is only Naveen Patnaik that counts. It is an open secret that most leaders piggy-back on his charisma to win elections,” said a BJD leader.

No leader in the BJD feels that some senior leaders leaving the party would in any way affect the outcome of the polls. They however admit that ruling the state continuously for the past 19 years has its own drawbacks.

Though there is nothing much to complain about Naveen Patnaik in general, many BJD MPs and MLAs are facing local anti-incumbency. It is a challenge for the ruling party to repeat the 2014 poll performance of 20 Lok Sabha and 118 MLA seats in the face of an aggressive BJP and a silent Congress, which still has some base spread out across the state.

Race for second and third position?

Among Congress and BJP, the latter is more vocal and going to the polls with all guns blazing. A BJP leader said that the four-phase elections in Odisha, which had two-phase process in 2014, would ensure that Prime Minister Modi and party president Shah covered all parliamentary constituencies in Odisha. “I am sure we will increase our Lok Sabha tally,” he said.

On the other hand, the Congress seems to know its limitations regarding its inability to defeat the BJD to come back to power, at least not this time, and so is less ambitious. Party leaders said Niranjan Patnaik has devised a strategy to more than double the 2014 tally of 16 assembly seats. “He is focusing on around 65 assembly segments and expecting better strike rate to win at least 35 seats,” a leader said.

The Congress sources say the party is strong in six Lok Sabha constituencies including Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Balangir, Sungargarh and Balasore. On the other hand, BJP leaders claim their party has a fair presence in eight Lok Sabha constituencies Kalahandi, Balangir, Bargarh, Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal, Bhubaneswar, Balasore and Sundargarh. A BJD leader admitted that fierce contest between BJD, Congress and BJP will be in 26 to 40 assembly segments under these Lok Sabha constituencies.

At the moment most political observers, including leaders from all the three main parties, say that the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik is certain to come back to power in Odisha. The political discourse is whether Congress retains its main opposition party slot or gives it away to the BJP, they say.

But, as it is often said, elections are known to throw up surprises.

 

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As officers join BJD bandwagon to contest elections, sitting party Lok Sabha MPs get nervous

Samikhsya Bureau

Series exits from the Biju Janata Dal and that too of few senior faces normally raise a questions. What is going on in the BJD war room? And coinciding with that the series entries by some former government officers into the BJD have become a big poser for political thinkers. Slowly yet steadily, its all heading towards a situation of big vacuum about a month and half before the polls.

Some leaders, as goes the presumptions around, from the BJD may have to sit at the benches to make room for new faces. The recent entry of a loyal government officer (a technocrat by essence) Nalini Pradhan can be viewed at what direction BJD gameplans are being drawn. Pradhan is tipped to be a candidate and this is perhaps official.

It is heard from sources that five more in-service officers are going to take voluntary retirement and join politics is what could be gathered from the chatters in the party circles, are going to be candidates for 2019. Maybe few more officers are to follow suit shortly to join the BJD bandwagon.  .

Such a step shall obviously provide grain for his critics because the Naveen Patnaik government, which has always been accused of being bureaucrat-driven, may have a government, if the BJD comes back to power, comprising officer-turned political leaders. That way the thrust remains but the outer wall shall be layered with touch of politics.

After the recent exit of a senior leader like Tathagat Satpathy, followers of political events foresee few more surprise exits from the BJD. It is immaterial whether Satpathy left politics, either driven by emotional reasons or out of fear of a last moment embarassment.

There are also rumours about a possible change in the candidate for Cuttack parliamentary seat. If that is going to be true, then it will be a thunderous exit by the incumbent MP, Bhatruhari Mehtab, who had succeeded to make a mark of himself in Parliament and was given the Best Parliamentarian of the year award recently.

Sambalpur MP Nagendra Pradhan’s interest contest again from the same seat is likely to upset the balance as the BJD has already made up its mind to field Nalini Pradhan there.

So also the leadership has its eyes on the Bhubaneswar as well to field someone to match up to the probable face from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Aparajita Sarangi. Baba Prasanna Patsani this time may be kept out. There may be many more in the offing.

This entire exercise, that is underway in the BJD, points at one thing. That is , the confidence that Naveen Patnaik has within him to yet again reassign to himself the role of an ocean whose  tides of fame can weather the thunder of waves to break through the cliffs of a strong opposition.

 

 

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News Update

Naveen inaugurates Five high performance sports centres in Kalinga stadium

Odisha government has launched five High -Performance centers in a continuous bid to promote sports and sports culture in the state.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched the high-quality, international level high-performing centers at the Kalinga Stadium here last night in presence of several high-level dignitaries, sporting professionals, and government officials.

Launching the High Performance centres, Mr Patnaik said “It is a historic day for Sports development in Odisha as a state that’s passionate about sports.

“We understand how beneficial the opening of these High-performance centers is to a sportsman as well as the Nation,” Mr.Patnaik said adding he was delighted to dedicate these centers to the sports loving people of Odisha.

The chief minister thanked everyone for their association with this initiative and joining the state in the journey of making Odisha- the Sports destination of India”.

In a tweet Mr Patnaik said ‘’ # Odisha cemented its place as # sports capital of India with the HPCs for nurturing excellence in badminton, athletics, weightlifting, football & sports management –set up through partnerships with legends of Indian Sports, Commitment of corporate sponsors & management institutions.’’

Mr Patnaik also inaugurated the sports climbing wall and felicitated 162 outstanding sportspersons from the state with cash awards who have participated Asian games at Jakarta, Para Asian Games medal winners and gold, silver and bronze medal winners in KIYG, Pune besides the Hockey,Football, Archery,Rugbym Gymnastic and Weightlifting teams.

The high performance centre of Badminton by Dalmia Bharat & Pullela Gopichand Badminton Foundation, Athletics by Reliance Foundation, Athletics Federation of India and International Association of Athletics Federation, Weightlifting by KJS Ahluwalia & Tenvic Sports. Football development in the state by All India Football Federation & Odisha sports development & promotion company and Sports Management by the XAVIER-EMLYON Business School & KJS Ahluwalia were inaugurated.

These organization,the chief minister said will provide the related sport with the necessary infrastructure and support services needed by an individual to realize their potential.

The felicitation ceremony on the other hand recognized the efforts and achievements of 162 players from different sports categories, who bought accolades for the state with their remarkable performances throughout the year at different national events.

The inauguration of a High Performance sport climbing Node at the Climbing Wall arena at Kalinga Stadium will nurture and train youth in sport climbing with an objective to prepare them for International level.

This will promote mountaineering, sport climbing and allied adventure activities/sports at various levels within the state,official sources said.

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Special

By declining Padma Shri, Gita Mehta exposes the politics behind Bharat Ratna and Padma awards

By Priya Ranjan Sahu

Few hours after the central government announced the list of Padma awadees on the eve of January 26, noted writer Gita Mehta declined the Padma Shri award to be conferred on her.

In a press note, Mehta said: “I am deeply honoured that the Government of India should think me worthy of a Padma Shri but with great regret I feel I must decline as there is a general election looming and the timing of the award might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the Government and myself, which I would much regret.”

Besides being an acclaimed writer known internationally, Mehta happens to be the elder sister of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik. Her statement refusing the Padma Shri is civilised and polite. Nevertheless, it is a tight slap on the face of the Modi government, which has announced the Padma and Bharat Ratna awards with an eye on the 2019 general elections.

Even a layman without any interests in politics can clearly see that by chosing Mehta for a Padma Shri award, the Modi government was trying to cosy up with Patnaik, just as it was trying to disarm the Congress as well as to woo the people of West Bengal by announcing the name of former president Pranab Mukherjee for Bharat Ratna.

Besides, political considerations as per ‘look east’ policy of the BJP are evident in awarding Bharat Ratna to Mukherjee and late Bhupen Hazarika, legendary Assamese musician, poet and filmmaker. As part of the same policy, the BJP government perhaps announced Padma Shri for Mehta as a consolation to Odisha, though there has been a clamour in the state for Bharat Ratna for her father Biju Patnaik for a long time.

It must be recorded that considering 76-year-old Mehta’s achievements in literary field, Padma Shri award came her way a bit too late. She wrote her fascinating international best seller non-fiction, Karma Cola, on marketing of international spirituality in the West way back in 1979. She had followed it up with other credible literary works.

When the work of a person of eminence is recognised late and not matched by appropriate award, it becomes a kind of humiliation to him or her. On that count too, she did the right thing in declining the state award.

Still, many deserving people who are treated in the same manner accept those awards without a whimper of protest. Only few have great conviction and integrity to refuse such awards.

Renowned journalist Nikhil Chakraborty, who founded iconic Mainstream magazine, had refused the Padma Bhushan award conferred on him by the National Front government in 1990 saying that “a journalist carrying his professional obligations should not appear to be close to any government and/ or any political establishment”.

Politicising state honours is not confined to the Modi government alone. Eyebrows were raised when the Congress government awarded cricketer Sachin Tendulkar with Bharat Ratna in 2014. Similarly, the Bharat Ratna to former Tamil Nadu chief minister M.G. Ramachandran in 1988, a year after his death, created a storm in political circles because it was seen as a political compulsion of the Congress government headed by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Bharat Ratna and Padma awards are meant for people with immense contribution to the country. They will lose their respect and trustworthiness if the government of the day used them for its own political ends.