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Challenges galore as CM begins new term

- Massive mandate in favour of BJD raises expectations of people

Bhubaneswar, May 25: BJD president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik has secured a massive mandate on the plank of development raising the expectations of the electorate. The five challenges that confront him are:

CBI probe into scams

Money deposit scam is the most talked about one, apart from the mining and coal block allotment scandals. Following a directive from the Supreme Court, the CBI is probing into the allegations against 44 fraudulent companies, who have cheated nearly nine lakh people to Rs 4,375 crore (in the state government’s assessment). However, unofficial estimates put the amount around Rs 20,000 crores. Apart from the CBI probe, Odisha police are probing another 123 sham companies.

Money deposit scam: The allegation that some of the ruling party leaders were in league with some of these dubious companies could worry the government. As investigations proceed, the government could face embarrassing moments.

Mining scam: Justice M.B. Shah Commission of Inquiry’s second report is yet to be tabled. In the first volume, the commission has raised accusing fingers against both the central and state governments for various lapses. Now, the BJP-led NDA government will try to corner the Congress and the BJD government on the issue.

Coal block allotment: The CBI is investigating the case pertaining to the issue of allocating coal blocks to private companies. There have been allegations that the chief minister had recommended private firms being given coal blocks. The state government’s stance has been that it had done in the state’s interest.

Special category status for Odisha

During his third term, Naveen had made the demand for special status as his core campaign point against the UPA. Now, the question is whether Naveen will continue to make the same charge against the NDA. Interestingly, the BJP state unit, too, had made a poll commitment to get the special category status for the state. But, the BJP’s national manifesto is silent on the demand.

The BJD has made it clear that it would not hesitate extending “issue-based support” to the government in the larger interest of the state and the nation. A lot will depend on the BJP-led government at the Centre’s attitude towards the state.

Besides, the BJP has one MP, Jual Oram from the state. Politically, Naveen will certainly find it hard to target the BJP as his principal Opposition in the state is the Congress. He has to sustain a campaign against both the Congress and the BJP to keep his vote bank intact.

Finance

The ground reality is that the state’s economy has taken a downward trend after 2012. Mines are being closed down. The state will be losing nearly Rs 2,000 crore from this year after the Paradip oil refinery project is commissioned. As a concession, the state deferred VAT collection on oil for 11 years. Besides, the seventh Pay Commission for the government employees is expected to be tabled in 2016. The logical fallout will be on the salary and wage bills of the state government employees. Another onerous task for the government is to collect fines to nearly Rs 60,000 crore from the mining sector for excessive extraction of ore.

Poll commitments

The government will find it tough to continue with all its welfare schemes. It has announced nearly 200 projects, which were inaugurated within a span of 18 days before the elections. The ruling party in its manifesto has promised availability of roads, water, electricity, irrigation facilities to nearly 10 lakh hectres in next five years, pucca houses under the shelter security mission, health insurance plan, model public schools in each block and pilgrim allowances for the senior citizens.

At present, the state carries the burden of nearly Rs 1,312 crore for implementation of Re-1-kg-rice scheme and Rs 729 crore on the Madhu Babu pension yojana. The Naveen government has endeared itself to the electorate with a raft of pro-poor schemes such as free bicycles for school girls, umbrellas and blankets for poor and homeless and mobiles to farmers.

Industrialisation

Though the government has signed nearly 102 MOUs, several projects are yet to take off. The MOU with Posco in 2005 for its mega steel plant has lapsed. Most of the industrial houses are not being able to pursue their projects in the state mainly because of two factors — land acquisition and assured supply of raw materials.

It will be a difficult time for Naveen. But, he knows how to turn his disadvantages to his favour.