|Naveen Patnaik in Jagatsinghpur on Sunday.
Bhubaneswar, Sept. 8: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today slammed the Centre for its alleged step-motherly attitude towards the state and harped on the achievements of his government to boost the BJD’s prospects in the forthcoming municipal elections.
Addressing a string of meetings in Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Puri districts, Naveen sought to put his government’s popular welfare projects such as free bicycles and laptops for school and college students in the foreground as he raised the BJD’s campaign pitch.
“All sections of people have reaped the benefits of these projects. We have ensured good governance,” Naveen told people in Jagatsinghpur and Pattamundai, which are known ruling party bastions.
At Pattamundai, the local notified area committee Congress chief was seen standing close to Naveen fuelling speculations about a possible division in the Opposition ranks.
Playing the perfect demagogue, Naveen raked up the issue of UPA government’s continued neglect of Odisha in all spheres. He said the state’s demand for the special category tag, though completely justified, was being ignored by the Centre.
As electioneering gathered momentum, the Congress formally launched its campaign at Jajpur Road while the BJP released its manifesto at the party office in Bhubaneswar.
State BJP president K.V. Singh Deo said his party was committed to building up “efficient, vibrant and citizen friendly” municipalities.
The Congress meetings at Jajpur Road and the neighbouring Vyasnagar saw prominent party leaders such as Bhupinder Singh and Ramchandra Khuntia sharing the dais with Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena. They called upon people to defeat the BJD.
“The ruling party has failed to take up developmental projects in the urban areas here. People are going to reject them,” said Jena.
The focus on the day, however, remained firmly on Naveen, who campaigned in the coastal belt, considered to be his party’s stronghold, despite intermittent rains. At Pattamundai, he had to cut short his speech because of the rain and a technical snag in the microphone. A visibly upset Naveen later read out names of his party candidates in the area and appealed to the voters to elect them.
The gathering at his meetings in Jagatsighpur, Pattamundai, Pipili, Konarak and Nimpara was impressive despite the showers and crowd cheered him repeatedly as he lashed out at the Centre and then dwelt on the theme of development. “My party stands for development and progress of the state. We are focusing on the development of both urban and rural areas,” he said adding that a vote for BJD would be a vote for progress.
Congress veteran and Union minister Srikant Jena, however, refuted the chief minister’s charge that Centre was neglecting Odisha.
“Without central assistance under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, no developmental work would have been possible in the state’s urban areas. The state is not spending a pie on this count. I am sure the people will remember this and vote for the Congress,” he said.
However, BJD vice-president and health minister Damodar Rout said: “People have faith in Naveen Patnaik. They have seen his work and will vote for him. They will ensure that the same party that rules in Bhubaneswar also rules the urban local bodies,” he said.
The BJP, on the other hand, has decided to focus on issues such as sanitation, drinking water, health and roads in its campaign.