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Naveen Patnaik-Led BJD to Take on Modi Govt By Holding Mega Rally in Delhi on January 8

After a string of defeats in the Hindi heartland, the BJP is closely eyeing the Odisha battleground in the general elections in May.

Rupashree Nanda | CNN-News18

Updated:January 5, 2019, 12:31 PM IST
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Naveen Patnaik-Led BJD to Take on Modi Govt By Holding Mega Rally in Delhi on January 8
File photo of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (PTI)

New Delhi: In what appears to be a well-crafted strategy to take on the Narendra Modi-led NDA government ahead of Lok Sabha polls, the Biju Janata Dal will hold a sit-in protest in Delhi on January 8 to step up pressure on Centre to implement of Swaminathan Commission and to demand higher MSP for paddy.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is also expected to reach the national capital along with the BJD MPs and MLAs. A special train full of farmers is also scheduled to leave Bhubaneswar on Saturday and reach Delhi on Monday. The same evening, a delegation led by Patnaik will meet President Ramnath Kovind.

On December 31, the BJD government announced the Kalia Yojana for marginal farmers, tenant farmers and livestock growers. The ambitious scheme aims to transfer Rs 5,000 each in rabi and kharif crop season to the accounts of landed marginal farmers, Rs 6,000 to tenant farmers and Rs 12,000 to livestock farmers. Pratap Kehsari Deb, BJD Rajya Sabha MP, questioned the benefits of a loan waiver, saying: “UPA-2 did it and now five states have done it. But has it solved the problem? Also, this is a recurrent benefit.”

The BJD wants the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy to increase from Rs 1,750 per quintal to Rs 2,390 per quintal. “Odisha assembly passed a unanimous resolution to fix the MSP for paddy at Rs 2,930 and this was supported by all parties. An all-party Odisha Assembly delegation requested PM Modi for five minutes but unfortunately he had no time,” said Prasanna Acharya, BJD MP.

The tussle between Patnaik and Prime Minister Narendra Modi heightened after the former refuted Modi’s claim that the Odisha government, which had come to power by promising to provide irrigation to an additional 10 lakh hectares, had managed to create irrigation facilities for a paltry 22,000 hectares.

In a letter to the PM, Patnaik said that 85 per cent of the commitments made in 2013 have been fulfilled and the remaining will also be accomplished. He also accused the central government of not lending adequate support to Odisha.

After its string of defeats in the Hindi heartland, the BJP is closely eyeing the Odisha battleground. Speculation is rife that Modi may contest from the ancient temple town of Puri to attempt a Varanasi-like victory.

But the BJD, having been in power for 19 years in the state, is well entrenched and Patnaik could also prove invaluable in case the NDA falls short of numbers. Also, there is buzz that BJD is geared up to go all out in the poll battle as this may be Patnaik's last election.

Insisting that the BJD is equidistant from both the BJP and Congress’ centric formations, its MP Bhatruhari Mahtab said, “This is not the first time that we are holding a rally. When the UPA was in power, Naveen Patnaik had held a massive rally in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan to demand a special status for Odisha. We have been opposing the Triple Talaq bill since last December. If we were in support of NDA and BJP we would have supported the bill wholeheartedly. It depends on how we look at things. We have been opposing the BJP since 2009.”

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