Chief minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. Telegraph picture
Bhubaneswar, May 4: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today came down heavily on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for lending support to the controversial multi-purpose Polavaram project.
The project, being executed by Andhra Pradesh government, is likely to submerge large areas in Odisha’s tribal-dominated Malkangiri district.
“It clearly shows the negative attitude of both these leaders towards Odisha. As you know we have moved the Supreme Court against construction of the project and lowering of the dam height. We are keen to ensure that no area in our state is submerged because of the project and people don’t suffer in any way,” said Naveen soon after arriving here from Delhi, where he spent 13 days.
Campaigning for the BJP in Andhra Pradesh recently, Modi had said if his party was voted to power it would ensure completion of the project that would benefit a large number of people in that state. Rahul Gandhi had also spoken on similar lines during his campaign in the southern state and even made a mention of the UPA government’s move to grant Polavaram the status of a national project.
Significantly, last week the central cabinet gave its nod to the proposal to set up an autonomous Polavaram Project Authority to expedite the process of environmental and investment clearances for the project that has Andhra Pradesh locking horns not only with Odisha, but also with BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, which also faces a threat of inundation.
Yesterday, Odisha chief secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra had said that the state government was awaiting details of the Union cabinet’s decision to set up an autonomous Polavaram Project Authority.
“We are awaiting the details which will be placed before the government. If necessary, we will bring it to the notice of the Supreme Court, where the Polavaram issue is still pending,” Mohapatra had told newspersons here.
The latest statement of Naveen makes it clears that the BJD would continue its opposition to the project. Sources said that Naveen, who has written several letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other central leaders on the issue, might also consider making a common cause with Chhattisgarh to put pressure on whichever dispensation comes to power in Delhi. The likelihood of the BJD launching a state-wide agitation over the issue is not being ruled out.
Significantly, Naveen’s 13-day trip to Delhi had triggered speculation about the BJD trying to work out post-poll alliances with like-minded parties. The chief minister, however, dismissed such rumours.
“During my stay in Delhi, I did not meet any national leader,” he said. On the possible emergence of a Third Front after the announcement of election results, he said it was too early to speculate on such possibilities.
The chief minister also sought to put all speculation about his health to rest. “I am fit and fine,” he said. During his absence from Bhubaneswar there were strong rumours that the rigors of an extended election campaign had taken a toll on his health and he was recuperating in Delhi.