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Fresh Politics Over Regional Disparity in Odisha Begins After CM Naveen Patnaik Vacates Bijepur Seat

Patnaik’s decision to contest from Bijepur as the second seat was born out of his party’s attempt to endear itself to the people of western Odisha in the face of BJP’s growing popularity in the region in recent years.

Anand ST Das | News18

Updated:June 5, 2019, 7:31 PM IST
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Fresh Politics Over Regional Disparity in Odisha Begins After CM Naveen Patnaik Vacates Bijepur Seat
File photo of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik taking oath of office on May 29. (PTI)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s decision to relinquish the Bijepur assembly seat in the state’s western parts has sparked a political row between his party Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition BJP, which is busy presenting Patnaik’s move as a betrayal to the people of western Odisha.

Patnaik, who led BJD to a massive win in the Assembly polls and was sworn in as chief minister for a record fifth term on May 29, had contested from Hinjili and Bijepur seats. His decision to fight in two seats was a first in his political career. The 72-year-old BJD supremo won both the seats handsomely and decided to retain the Hinjili seat in coastal Odisha, from where he had previously been elected to the Assembly for four consecutive terms.

Bijepur falls in the Bargarh district in impoverished western Odisha and shares borders with Chhattisgarh. Patnaik’s decision to contest from Bijepur as the second seat was born out of his party’s attempt to endear itself to the people of western Odisha in the face of BJP’s growing popularity in the region in recent years. As many as eight of the ten MLAs BJP had got in the 2014 Assembly polls were from western Odisha.

Patnaik’s gambit brought mixed results for BJD in the recently concluded simultaneous polls. While five of the eight MPs the saffron party got in Odisha were elected from the western parts, the regional party managed to win as many as 11 of the 14 Assembly seats in these parts. The Bargarh Lok Sabha seat went to BJP, but all the five Assembly seats under this seat were won by BJD.

Three days before formally announcing his decision to vacate the Bijepur seat, Patnaik unveiled an elaborate development package worth Rs 1,330 crore exclusively for this Assembly segment. Apart from 34,000 pucca houses for residents, he promised two mega-piped water supply schemes, assuring piped water supply to all the households in the next two years, a lift irrigation project worth Rs 48 crore, 29 river lift irrigation projects and about 3,000 deep borewell irrigation projects.

“The CM’s relinquishment of Bijepur seat is his latest act of betrayal for the people of western Odisha. The special package he announced before vacating the seat is nothing but an eyewash and an attempt to cheat the people of western Odisha yet another time,” fumed senior BJP leader and Sambalpur MLA Jayanarayan Mishra.

BJP MP from Bargarh, Suresh Pujari, termed Patnaik’s “abandonment” of Bijepur as “nothing but betrayal with western Odisha”. BJP leaders are already busy telling western Odisha residents about the “Bijepur betrayal by Patnaik and BJD”.

It was, however, the regional party that had first accused BJP of neglecting western Odisha after the Union cabinet was sworn in on May 30. BJD leader and rural development minister Sushant Singh said though the BJP won five Lok Sabha seats from western Odisha, not a single MP from the region became part of the Union council of ministers. PM Narendra Modi’s cabinet has got two ministers from Odisha – Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Chandra Sarangi.

“The Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government in Odisha has given the western parts of the state their due share by inducting six MLAs from the region in its cabinet,” said Singh.

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| Edited by: Debdeep Mukherjee
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