Naveen Patnaik lays the foundation stone of a mini stadium at Harichandanpur near Salipur on January 18
Bhubaneswar, March 10: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had gone into an overdrive with a flurry of inaugurations and pro-people announcements even before the elections were announced. This was supplemented by an advertisement blitz to highlight the new programmes.
Nearly 200 projects were inaugurated within a span of 18 days before the announcement of polls. Some new schemes were also announced.
The foundation stone laying spree gained momentum after the municipal elections concluded on February 7. From February 13 to March 3, Naveen inaugurated and laid foundation stones for nearly 200 projects, almost 12 a day, spread over 21 of the state’s 30 districts.
The projects included roads, bridges, electric sub-station, tourist sheds, 108 emergency ambulance services and hostels. Such was the hurry that on February 23, he inaugurated nearly 20 projects crisscrossing the state in a chopper. No one in the government could explain as to whether or not there were budgetary allocations for these projects.
“The BJD will swing the elections this time as the government has introduced a number of schemes and projects for the welfare of the people. The people have rejected the Opposition,” said BJD vice-president and minister Damodar Rout.
Another senior party member and vice-president Kalpataru Das echoed similar views.
“The Opposition has lost credibility,” Das averred.
In fact, the BJD has begun its groundwork for the general election much earlier when the urban polls were held for coastal Odisha, western Odisha and other parts of the state spanning from September to November.
“Naveen Patnaik covered more than 100 Assembly constituencies, including the Maoists infested belt of undivided Koraput district and the inaccessible parts of Motu,” said a senior BJD leader.
The chief minister’s programmes were carefully crafted with the active support of the administration. All the departments were asked to come out with programmes that could be announced and almost all the departments did their best in this regard.
There were announcements of poll sops to all sections of the electorate. Though the government did not enhance the retirement age of government employees from 58 to 60, which was a popular expectation, it, however, tried to appease the five lakh strong work force by announcing 10 per cent hike in DA. It has also looked into the interest of the women selfhelp group by announcing concession in interest on loan besides releasing Rs 24.49 crore under Mission Yuva Shakti.
In between the state government tried to indulge in Centre bashing when the railway ministry failed to make any big provisions for the state in its interim budget. In order to gain sympathy of the people of western Odisha, where it failed to find a suitable location for the bench of Orissa High Court, the state government announced to provide land for the Balangir- Khurda railway project free of cost and to bear the 50 per cent of the project cost.
The announcements with a keen eye on electoral profits continued. In order to appease tribals, who have been dissatisfied with the government’s industrial policy, especially in the Niyamgiri case, the government announced Rs 12 crore for the preservation and protection of the sacred groves. Earlier, it also announced a Rs 100-crore package for kendu leaf pluckers, a majority of them tribals.
The Opposition, though, is not convinced. Reacting to the government’s claim for the overall development of the state, Pradesh Congress campaign committee (PCC) chief Srikanta Jena said: “We want to know what they have done for the people during the last 14 years. Naveen Patnaik should come forward and accept our invitation for an open debate on the issue.”
On the other hand, state Congress chief Jaydev Jena said that all schemes of the Centre had been hijacked by the Naveen government to derive political mileage out of it.
BJP state unit president K.V. Singh Deo said that the chief minister had virtually launched the poll campaign at the cost of the state exchequer.
“The government must come out with a statement on the projects launched by it during the last five years and how many of them have actually been completed,” Singh Deo said.