Naveen set for first post-Covid meeting
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik will attend his first public meeting, around 10 months after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, in Kalahandi on Thursday on Makar Sankranti, one of the festivals that is celebrated in western Odisha in a big way.
The chief minister had been so far confined to Naveen Niwas, except for visiting the shrines of Lord Jagannath in Puri and Lord Lingaraj in Bhubaneswar and the Baramunda bus stand for a review.
The ruling Biju Janata Dal has asked nearly 70 of its MLAs and ministers to reach Kalahandi a day ahead of Naveen’s public meeting. They have been asked to fan out to different parts of the district, right upto the panchayat level, to make people aware of the various welfare programmes of the government.
Sources said the chief minister will practically launch the party’s campaign for the upcoming municipal elections from Kalahandi. Though poll dates are yet to be announced, the election is likely to be held sometime in the middle of the year.
“Naveen’s decision to start his first public meeting after the coronavirus pandemic in Kalahandi has political significance. The BJP is emerging as a force in the district. In the last panchayat and zilla parishad elections, the BJD had failed to put up a good show in the district. Considering all these factors our leader has chosen the district for the meeting which will send out a signal to the people of Kalahandi and western Odisha which is considered to be underdeveloped,” said a senior BJD leader.
Minister for energy, industries and MSME Dibya Shankar Mishra, who hails from Kalahandi district, told The Telegraph: “Real transformation is going to take place in Kalahandi. More than Rs 2,000 crore has been invested in the agriculture sector. The district will see a transformation from poverty to prosperity under the leadership of the chief minister.”
He added: “Though the BJP is making an attempt to make inroads into Kalahandi, it would not be successful. In the last zilla parishad elections, we had lost miserably and won only one out of 36 seats and the BJP had won 33 seats. But later we stepped up our efforts and won four out of five Assembly seats in the district and BJP had won only one. But this time in the zilla parishad elections, we will win all the 36 seats.”
However, the Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat is represented by the BJP.
Significantly, before Naveen’s visit, senior IAS officer Asit Tripathy, who retired as the chief secretary on December 31, has taken charge as the chairperson of the Western Odisha Development Council. “The move indicates how Naveen babu is focusing on western Odisha,” said the BJD leader. The district was earlier known for acute poverty and allegations of famine and starvation deaths.
Naveen himself posted information about his proposed visit to Kalahandi on social media. During the visit the chief minister will inaugurate the Rs 756-crore Indravati mega lift irrigation project. Once the 33km-long canal project begins functioning, irrigation facilities will be available to 26,248 hectares of land in 91 villages under three blocks of the district. Besides, Naveen will launch other projects worth Rs 1,300 crore.
According to the schedule, nearly 2,000 people will congregate at the meeting venue and the programme will be telecast live.
“The 2,000 people who will attend the meeting will have to get their Covid tests done,” Mishra said.
The MLAs and ministers, who have been asked to camp in the panchayats, will ensure that people can watch the programme live on LED screens. Party MLAs and leaders have been asked to adhere strictly to Covid-19 guidelines.