BJP’s Rajnath Singh (extreme right) addresses a rally in Berhampur. Picture by Gopal Krishna Reddy
Bhubaneswar, April 2: The BJP is sparing no efforts to win over the tribal heartland of the state over which it had a firm grip once as an ally of the BJD.
For three successive terms, the BJP had captured tribal-dominated Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Sundargarh Lok Sabha seats till 2009 when the alliance between the BJD and the BJP broke. Considering that the party had a support base in these areas, the BJP is now concentrating in this belt.
BJP president Rajnath Singh today made a whirlwind tour of the area and addressed a series of meetings. Incidentally, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and BJD president Naveen Patnaik, too, had campaigned in the region two days ago.
Targeting both the BJD and the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, Singh today blamed the two governments for the poverty and backwardness of the region.
“The people of this mineral-rich region remain poor, as minerals worth crores were plundered by the mining mafia in connivance with the state and central governments,” he said, adding that Kalahandi, known for poverty and starvation deaths, remained still poor and backward.
Stating that there had been scams worth Rs 5.5 lakh crore during the UPA regime, the former Union agriculture minister said that had a faction of the looted funds been invested in the region, it would have been a well-developed and prosperous belt.
Unlike BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who had refrained from criticising Naveen, the BJP president did not mince words in blaming the BJD for all the ills in the state — be it mining scam, atrocities on women, law and order situation and NREGS scam. “Is he (Naveen) doing justice to the land of his father Biju Patnaik?” he asked and asserted that “a BJP government in the state can only fulfil the dreams of the legendary leader Biju Patnaik”.
He said that if his party came to power, it would unearth all the scams and punish the guilty, “howsoever powerful he or she may be”. He said that in 10 years, the BJP has changed the face of Chhattisgarh, a tribal-dominated state, mainly because of its commitment to uplift the poor and downtrodden.
Reacting to Singh’s statement, BJD vice-president and health minister Damodar Rout said: “He does not know about the state and the achievements and popularity of the Naveen Patnaik government. His irresponsible statement proves his political immaturity.”
Rout said Singh might have forgotten that the BJP had once won 36 Assembly seats with the help of the BJD. Once the BJD severed its alliance with the BJP, the party’s strength fell drastically from 36 to six in last elections.
In Nabarangapur, Parsuram Majhi of the BJP had won the Lok Sabha seat from nine-time Congress MP Khagapati Pradhani in 1999 and retained it for the second term in 2004. However, he lost the elections to Pradeep Majhi of the Congress by a margin of 29,977 votes in 2009. Parsuram is trying hard to wrest the seat again from Congress this time.
Similarly, Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat had been in the hands of the BJP for three terms till Congress’s Bhakta Charan Das snatched it in 2009. Firebrand leader and former minister Pradipta Nayak is contesting this time against Das and BJD’s Arka Keshari Deo.
The BJP is also fighting hard to regain the Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat, which was lost to the Congress last time. Party vice-president and former Union minister Jual Oram is fighting a “do or die” battle with the sitting MP and former chief minister Hemananda Biswal and former hockey India captain Dillip Tirkey.
The party has also set its eye on Koraput Lok Sabha seat, where Congress candidate and former chief minister Giridhar Gamang faces challenges from home front.