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Cong eyes urban polls, turns west

File picture of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik with party members during the Congress padayatra near Pipili in October

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 14: Major political parties are set to shore up their base in western Odisha with the Congress today beginning a six-day padayatra there to consolidate its position ahead of the urban polls scheduled early next year.

Called Parivartan Yatra, the foot march was launched from Binika in Sonepur district. It will culminate at Atabira in Baragarh district on November 19.

On the other hand, the BJD’s rebel group, led by Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, will organise a meeting of its outfit, Odisha Jan Morcha (OJM) at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district on November 19. To counter the programme of the political parties to consolidate their position in western Odisha, the BJD has already launched series of meeting there.

“We want to send a message that people are with the BJD. They are neither with the OJM nor with the Congress,” said BJD leader and former minister Puspendra Singh Deo. Sources said BJD supremo and chief minister Naveen Patnaik would visit Bhawanipatna soon to counter the influence of both the OJM and the Congress.

Odisha Pradesh Congress president Niranjan Patnaik, leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh, former minister Narasingh Mishra and other leaders rushed to western Odisha to mobilise mass support in favour of the Congress. Last month, the Congress had launched its eight-day padayatra from Swaraj Ashram in Cuttack covering eight districts of the state’s coastal belt. The party today again targeted the state government for neglecting the farmers’ cause and demanded Rs 300 as incentive bonus for per quintal of paddy to the farmers on the minimum support price (MSP) in line with states such as Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

“They have no concern for the farmers,” said the Pradesh Congress Committee president.“The farmers’ plight saddened us. Since paddy procurement is about to start, the state government must declare a minimum bonus of Rs 300 per quintal on the MSP,” said Patnaik. At present, the MSP of paddy in the state is Rs 1,080 per quintal.

However, BJD leaders said the Centre was not doing any favour by giving financial assistance to the state under various schemes. “The Centre is taking a lot of benefit in the form of mineral royalty and revenue from railway sector. Compared to that whatever they are giving is too little,” said a BJD leader.