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Naveen dons election gear

- Chief minister meets BJD leaders to finalise candidates

Bhubaneswar, Feb.17: Chief minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik today sought to put his party’s poll preparations into top gear with a meeting of senior party leaders at Naveen Nivas to finalise the list of candidates for the Lok Sabha and the Assembly.

Simultaneously, he made a clever move to pacify the tribals, who constitute a sizeable vote bank, by sanctioning Rs 12 crore for protection, conservation and development of sacred groves in the tribal-dominated areas of the state. The money to be spent over the next three years would ensure that forest habitats of tribal deities were not disturbed or desecrated by industrial activity.

The forest department is reported to have identified nearly 2,000 places of religious importance to the tribals for being conserved in this manner. Most of these sites are located in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Koraput districts.

Significantly, the move comes in the wake of a massive ad blitz launched by the state government to highlight its achievements during the last five years. Local newspapers have been plastered with full page advertisements singing praises of the Naveen government for having launched schemes such as cheap rice to people, the Biju Krushak Kalyan Yojana, the 108 ambulance service, the Mission Shakti for women empowerment, the Mamta yojana for pregnant women and the Madhu Babu Pension Scheme for the old and the destitutes.

Sources said the publicity blitzkrieg must have set the exchequer back by several crores, but with elections round the corner, Naveen is obviously not counting the cost. So keen is the chief minister on projecting his government’s achievements on various fronts that the day he received the Krishi Karman award from the President in Delhi for Odisha being the best food grain producing state in the country, officials here were issued expressed instructions to put out full page ads in all major newspapers.

The ad blitz follows Naveen’s whirlwind tour of the state during the last two months during which he inaugurated a string of projects from drinking water to installation of electric sub-stations, all with an eye on elections. Sources said that during this period Naveen has covered more than 60 assembly constituencies including those falling in Ganjam, his home district. On February 20, Naveen is scheduled to visit his constituency Hinjili where he will inaugurate a number of projects.

Lambasting the chief minister’s inauguration spree, state Congress campaign committee chairman and Union minister Srikant Jena accused Naveen of trying to appropriate central schemes by his own stamp on them. “What he is doing is patently wrong. He seems to be following a policy of changing stickers,” said Jena.

State BJP president K.V. Singh Deo demanded an explanation from the government on the progress of the projects for which the chief minister had laid foundation stones during the last five years. “There are places where foundation stones were laid twice. The people must know the truth,” he said.


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