V Kishore Chandra Deo
Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, Sept. 11: Union tribal affairs minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo has stirred a hornet’s nest with his suggestion to shift the East Coast Railway headquarters from Bhubaneswar to Vishakhapatnam.
The minister’s proposal in this regard to the Antony committee, set up by the Centre to address the concerns of leaders from coastal Andhra Pradesh over smooth division of the state, has triggered angry reactions in Odisha. The BJD is planning demonstrations at railway stations across the state for three days from tomorrow. The Congress and the BJP leaders are equally upset at the suggestion.
The issue has provided ammunition to the BJD in its war against the UPA-led Centre.
Finance minister and senior BJD leader Prasanna Acharya said there appeared to be a fresh conspiracy by the UPA government against Odisha. “The headquarters of the East Coast Railway was set up in Bhubaneswar in 2003 after a long struggle. The proposal seems to be a conspiracy hatched by the Congress-led UPA government. We must oppose it unitedly,” he said.
BJD youth wing president Sanjay Dasburma said the party workers would sit on dharna at railway stations across the state between 10am and 11am for three days from tomorrow. He also demanded resignation of Union minister of chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Jena, who hails from Odisha, for failing to protect the state’s interest. “We also want that Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena and leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh should immediately meet the Prime Minister and urge him to drop Deo from his council of ministers,” said Dasburma.
In New Delhi, Deo, however, sought to clear the air over the issue, saying that he had been misunderstood. “I have said the South East Railway headquarters be shifted to Bhubaneswar first and then the East Coast Railway headquarters be moved to Vishakhapatnam with Vijaywada division under its control. This will benefit both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh,” Deo told The Telegraph.
Deo, in his submission to the Antony committee, has favoured making Vizag the capital of coastal Andhra Pradesh with extra amenities, including shifting of headquarters of the East Coast Railway from Bhubaneswar to Vishakhapatnam. The committee has sought the views of all the leaders from coastal Andhra Pradesh over the state’s bifurcation.
“The whole thing has been misunderstood. It is not my intention to deprive Odisha. If my suggestion is accepted, the entire rail network of Odisha will come under the south eastern zone,” Deo said. The minister said he also wanted the Khurda division, presently under the East Coast Railway, to be brought under the South Eastern Railway zone when its headquarters would be shifted to Bhubaneswar.
Jena, however, rebuffed the BJD’s demand for his resignation, saying Deo’s views were his own and did not reflect the Centre’s mind. “Those demanding my resignation should know that I was responsible for establishment of the East Coast Railway’s headquarters in Bhubaneswar. They are trying to make an issue out of nothing,” he said.
While state Congress veteran Narasingh Mishra said the party would not accept any proposal detrimental to the interests of the state, BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra said people would thwart any plans to move the East Coast Railway headquarters from the city.
A retired railway officer, who has worked for both South Eastern and East Coast Railway, said: “Such things are easier said than done, but in the eventuality of zonal headquarters being set up at Vishakhapatnam, we must demand that Rourkela, Jharsuguda, Balasore and Keonjhar-Barbil be brought under Odisha’s jurisdiction.”