It is not only Bijepur which is heating up the state politics. Many other important developments are also taking place. For example the chief minister has pulled off a coup of sorts by making Odisha government the sponsor of national men’s and women’s hockey teams for the next five years. The cost of the move to the exchequer notwithstanding it has far reaching political implications.
Even as campaigning in Bijepur is hotting up a number of other interesting political developments are taking place in the state. That Bijepur has become a prestige battle is more than evident from the kind of high voltage campaign it is witnessing.
Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been campaining in the constituency assiduously backing party candidate, Ashok Panigrahi to the hilt.Pradhan’s latest visit to the area followed Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s statement exuding confidence that his party winning the Bijepur by-poll. Naveen had said that his government had launched a number of development works and several welfare schemes for the people in Bijepur and hence would win the by-poll with a huge margin. Both the BJD and BJP are taking the by-poll seriously as the outcome is likely to have an impact on their preparations for 2019 general elections. Addressing the people at various places in Bijepur assembly constituency, Pradhan stressed on how the area lacked development, despite Naveen Patnaik government being in power for nearly 18 years.
The BJP has also been using its star power to woo voters. Odia cinema stars Mahasweta Ray, Mihir Das and Anu Choudhury campaigned in Bijepur for party candidate, Ashok Panigrahi.
For ruling BJD, MP and popular cine start Siddhanta Mohapatra campaigned in favour of its candidate Rita Sahu, wife of late MLA Subal Sahu. Mohapatra said “There was no road here. But in the last two years, the area has seen a lot of development. People will certainly vote for Naveen Patnaik.”
The Congress continued to lay stress on door-to-door campaign. For its candidate Pranay Sahu, senior leaders including Srikant Jena and former MP Pradeep Majhi campaigned. “People are aware of the secret understanding between BJD and BJP. They have seen how Naveen met Modi in New Delhi. There has been no development in the area for the last 18 years. People have been cheated,” said former minister Srikant Jena.
Meanwhile, the chief minister has pulled off a sporting and political coup with Odisha government becoming the sponsor of national hockey team for the next five years, the move coming ahead of the Men’s Hockey world cup to be held in the state capital in November this year. Naveen announced the association of the state government with the men and women national teams in Delhi.Sports department officials said that this is the first time any state government has decided to sponsor a national team. Though the officials remained tight-lipped about the amount of money to be pumped in by the state government towards the sponsorship, sources in the state government said that Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), a state-run PSU will spend around Rs 20 crores towards various expenses such as travel and training of the national teams. Patnaik also unveiled the jersey of team India with Odisha logo in Delhi. The logo features the Konark wheel, famed coastline of the state, the endangered Olive Ridley turtles, Odissi dance and hockey, which is a popular sport in the state. “ We are delighted at this association with Indian hockey and we thank Hockey India to have given us this platform. Hockey in Odisha is more than a sport; it’s a way of life especially in our tribal regions where children learn to walk with hockey sticks. We hope that Odisha’s association with the national hockey coincides with a golden period for the sports,” said the chief minister during the event.
National level hockey events made their debut in the state in 2014 when Odisha Sports Development and Promotion Company (OSDPC) jointly formed by Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) and Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) bought a state based franchise Kalinga Lancers in the second edition of Hockey India League. The state capital subsequently hosted the Champions Trophy in 2014 and eight nation Men’s Hockey World League Final in December last year. The success of both the international tournaments has presented the state capital an opportunity to host the 16-nation World Cup in November this year.
Meanwhile sports department officials said that the seating capacity of the hockey stadium at the Kalinga sports complex would be increased to 15000 by the end of July. The state government is expecting a congregation of 20000 to 25000 foreign tourists in the city during the World Cup. This is going to add to the chief minister’s appeal ahead of the elections. In another significant move Odisha government decided not to show Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’ programme in state schools.
School and Mass Education Minister Badri Naryan Patra said “Union Minister of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has sent a letter to the state government on the issue. But it is not wise to divert students’ attention towards Modi’s ‘Parikshya Pe Charcha’ during the examination time. It’s not a good idea.”
Patra further said “those students who are interested to see it can watch it through social media. It’s not mandatory for any school and we will not issue any direction to any school on this.” The matriculation examination will begin from February 23.
Earlier, the ruling BJD was critical about Prime Minister’s address to students on Teachers’ Day in 2015. Following Prime Minister’s address to children, Naveen had also addressed school children last year and students of all schools and colleges had listened to the speech.This has created an impression that Naveen stands on his own and will not bow down before the Centre. For a regional satrap nothing is more important than this. Naveen, like no other chief minister before him, is playing the Odia pride card to the hilt.