|BJD MLAs sit on a dharna on the Assembly premises. Telegraph picture
Bhubaneswar, July 9: Biju Janata Dal workers today hit the streets across the state protesting against “meagre” allocation for Odisha in the railway budget. But, the protests lacked fire-provoking allegations that it was “orchestrated”.
The allegations came as an embarrassment for the ruling party, which, only about a fortnight ago, had found itself running the gauntlet of public criticism for increasing the value added tax on petrol and diesel in the state budget. To make things worse, now its avowed policy of equal distance from the Congress and the BJP seems to be getting compromised with protests against the railway budget being seen as soft.
Opposition Congress today alleged that the BJD leadership, itself, was to blame for the Centre’s step-motherly attitude towards the state. Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said: “The state government has failed to present its case properly and effectively. It appears that the chief minister is not serious about the issue and ritually writes letters to central leaders for petty political gains.”
At his sarcastic best, Mishra hit out at the chief minister saying: “I think Naveen wants the state to remain backward, so that he can continue to make a political issue out of it.”
Youth and student wing activists of the BJD staged dharnas in front of all major railway stations, including Bhubaneswar, to protest against the Centre’s neglect of Odisha. However, they refrained from resorting to “rail roko” as they used to do in the past when the UPA government was in power. Even the chief minister, who used to target the UPA in the past one decade every time it took a step that impacted Odisha adversely, this time refrained from outrightly criticising the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
Though the chief minister let his party MLAs and workers lodge their protest, the agitation lacked vigour. “If we don’t protest, we will invite public criticism. So, we have no option but to raise our voice,” said a senior BJD leader, making the political compulsions of the party clear.
The issue also found an echo in the Assembly with the ruling party MLAs raising it during the Zero Hour, which saw them waving placards condemning the Centre’s attitude towards Odisha. There were counter slogans from the Congress and the BJP members with the former accusing both the Centre and the state government for the present plight of the state.
Later, the BJD legislators sat on a dharna on the Assembly premises.