PM Modi is scheduled to inaugurate a slew of projects in the state involving total investment of more than Rs 14.5 thousand crore.


New Delhi: With Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik taking the fight straight into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf, the PM’s flying visit to the state on Monday is certainly going to set the already charged-up politics there on fire. During his one-day visit, Modi is scheduled to go on an inauguration spree, unveiling eight major plants in one go, the cost of the projects totalling to a whopping Rs 14,523 crore.

Earlier this week, Patnaik had gone to the industrial town of Surat in Gujarat to inaugurate Odia Mahotsav organised by Odias staying there.

Surat is home to a 12-lakh-strong community of Odia migrants who are still emotionally and culturally very much attached to Odisha. Year long, there is high passenger traffic between the two states as they keep visiting their native places on various occasions. And Naveenbabu, as the CM is popularly known, knows well that Election Day is one such big occasion.

Defeat of four governments in five states that went to polls recently, primarily due to anti-incumbency, must have sent a chill down the spines of ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders. Realising that BJP has emerged as a real challenge to his 20-year dominance in the state politics, accompanied with his diminishing popularity and a frail health, Patnaik is now looking to create new support bases for his party. Announcing a slew of welfare schemes for NROs—an acronym for Odias residing outside the state—at the Surat fest may help him in this regard.

His visit to PM Modi’s home state created a lot of political buzz in both the states and Delhi as well. Welcoming Patnaik, his Gujarat counterpart Vijay Rupani urged him to implement Ayushman Bharat, Centre’s flagship health insurance scheme, for the benefit of all Odias. “I am surprised that Odisha is not connected with Ayushman Bharat,” Rupani said when he was in Bhubaneswar a day before the Surat fest though on a different mission.

The Gujarat CM explained that state schemes like Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) of Odisha or Mukhyamantri Amrutum Yojana (MAY) of Gujarat will not serve any purpose outside the respective states, but “Ayushman Bharat card” will work anywhere in the country. “Despite political differences with Congress, we had implemented UPA government schemes because it was in the interest of the people,” he added.

Speaking on similar lines, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is considered as Patnaik’s main challenger in the upcoming elections, said: “Naveen is only shedding crocodile tears for the Odia people living outside Odisha. If he was really bothered about the plight of Odias settled outside the state, he would have implemented Ayushman Bharat. Odias are working outside simply because the BJD government has failed to provide them jobs within the state in the last 20 years.”

Prime Minister Modi will start his whistle-stop tour in Odisha with addressing a huge rally, named as Janasambad Mahasamabesh, in Khurda near Bhubaneswar. There, he will unveil a special stamp and a currency note of Rs 200 denomination to commemorate the bicentenary of Paika Bidroh, the rebellion of the legendary Paika warriors in Khurda against the British, which is considered as the first war of Indian independence, 40 years before 1857. He will also announce the establishment of a Chair in Utkal University in the name of the rebellion leader, Buxi Jagabandhu, with a corpus fund of Rs 5 crore. The PM will then preside over the inaugural of the new campus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Bhubaneswar and later dedicate it to the nation.

After that, he will lay the foundation stone of four different projects from the same venue: permanent campus of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at Berhampur; Paradip-Hyderabad pipeline product project of Indian Oil; Bokaro-Angul section of Jagdishpur-Haldia and Bokaro-Dhamra gas pipeline project under Urja Ganga scheme by Gas Authority of India; and four highway projects including Khandagiri flyover.

He will also inaugurate from there itself the Archaeological Museum of Lalitgiri, a Buddhist destination in Jajpurdistrict, and an ESI hospital at Bhubaneswar.

The BJP is then expected to raise its electoral pitch during the Parivartan Rath Yatras it plans to take out in four different zones in the state in January. Party’s national president Amit Shah, Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani are the star-campaigners who are scheduled to join the Rath Yatras at different places. The amount of focus it is putting on Odisha and the way it is applying there all its tactics successful elsewhere, it seems the party has turned the state into its new experimental ground.

Meanwhile, a video clip showing bureaucrat-turned-BJP leader Aparajita Sarangi asking the party workers to “either work unitedly or leave”, has gone viral on social media. The IAS officer, who recently took voluntary retirement to join the saffron camp, is apparently unhappy with the kind of factionalism going on in the state unit. Known for her no-nonsense image, she is likely to be a prominent face of the party in the run-up to the next year’s polls.

In the clip, Sarangi is seen addressing a gathering of party workers and angrily asking: “Don’t you feel ashamed of the party’s loss time and again? Instead of making strategies to win polls, why are you indulging in groupism? Whoever will be the candidate fielded by the party, it is our duty to make them win, or else you quit the party.” She adds, “I have no association with anyone in the party nor I belong to any group. And I will never be linked with any particular person or group in the party.”

In all likelihood, Sarangi will contest from the prestigious Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency. She has started her own website in which she wrote: “BJD’s lasting contribution to Odisha is perpetuation of poverty.” Similarly, another former bureaucrat of stature known for his honesty and integrity, Prakash Mishra, who was the state’s DGP before moving to CRPF, is most likely to fight from Cuttack LS seat. He may also be fielded from Puri in case PM Modi chooses not to fight from there. Had Naveen Patnaik not blocked his prospect, Mishra would have become the CBI chief and the country’s premier investigating agency would not have been in such a pathetic condition today, feel observers.

The BJD already has two former bureaucrats in its ranks—former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Arup Patnaik, and former Accountant-General of Odisha and Kerala, Amar Patnaik. Arup Patnaik, who was a 1979-batch IPS officer of Maharashtra cadre, may have to face Sarangi, while Amar Patnaik, who  took voluntary retirement to join the BJD, may fight from Berhampur or Kandhamal seat.

Political circles are also agog with rumours that incumbent Public Works Secretary, Nalinikanta Pradhan, who is alleged to be the chief patron of the Bomikhal flyover scam-tainted contractor, Pratap Kishore Panda, is all set to join BJD before the polls and may contest from the Sambalpur Lok Sabha constituency.