Rivals Spar Ahead of the Polls



Elections are approaching and the major rivals, BJP and BJD are gearing up to take on each other. A big confrontation looms. Given the preparedness of both the sides speculation has already begun about whether BJP will actually be able to make a dent in chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s fortress.

With elections approaching both BJP and BJD, the main political rivals in the state, have stepped up attacks on each other. The war of words between the two sides over the government’s failure to ensure zero casualty during cyclone Titli has been raging. The calamity is said to have quite a few lives with 16 people getting buried under a hillock that collapsed in Gajpati district on the day Titli made its landfall near Palasa.

“Zero casualty was nothing more than a slogan. It was meant to collect brownie points but the claim of the government now lies in tatters. There have been deaths both in Gajpati and Ganjam districts, the latter being the native place of chief minister, Naveen Patnaik,” said a BJP spokesperson.

A senior BJD leader came up with an immediate rejoinder saying that it was because of government’s efforts that the casualty figure was so low. “ It is unfortunate that instead of giving credit to the government they are pointing accusing fingers at us. This is criticism for criticism sake,” he said.

Both the parties have launched preparations in the right earnest for the next elections. The state BJP unit decided to launch a two-long month mass contact programme like that of the ruling BJD and Congress, from November 1. The BJD, which already launched its Jan Sampark Yatra from October 2, said the saffron party was trying to copy them but it will not be successful.  The Congress launched its Yatra from October 4.

Addressing a party conference, State BJP party unit chief Basant Panda said, “The party will organise ‘Lok Sampark Padyatra’ at the village, panchayat and booth level from November 1 to 30. From December 1, the party will organise ‘Parivartan Yatra’ from December 1 to 30.  The Parivartan Yatra will be held in all blocks and urban areas of the state.  A number of central leaders will join the programme to expose the Naveen Patnaik government.”

Citing the reasons for undertaking mass contact progranmme, he said, “The BJD government is neck deep in corruption. We have decided to create awareness among the people about the various irregularities committed by the Naveen Patnaik government.”

Prior to the Lok Sampark Pada Yatra, the party had decided to organise ‘Halla Bol’ agitation for three days from October 27 to 30 to build up required momentum for the ongoing mass contact programmes.

He also criticized the Odisha government for its failure to implement the government of India’s health assurance scheme “Ayushman Bharat. “ We are now collecting the signature of the people against the state government for not implementing the central scheme. We will collect one crore signatures.”

Reacting to this BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said, “They have no original plan of action. They are just following and imitating our progranmmes. We have been organising the pada yatra for the last 10 years. Now they are following us. They are making false promises.  What about the two crore jobs they has promised to give youths. People will give a befitting reply to them in the 2019 elections.”

Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Niranjan Patnaik said, “ Both the BJP and BJD have lost the confidence of the people.  Their Padayatra will not yield any results.”

On the other hand chief minister Naveen Patnaik continues to take steps to generate awareness about his government’s welfare programmes that is being considered crucial to winning the next polls. Recently he flagged of a caravan that will spread awareness about the benefits of the newly-launched Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana.

The state government had launched the scheme on August 15 out of its own funds and shunned Centre’s Ayushman Bharat Yojana launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Jharkhand on September 23.

Modi during his visit to Odisha on September 22 had appealed to the Odisha government to be part of the programme. However, Naveen ignored the Centre’s plea and went ahead with the state’s own programme.

Health Minister Pratap Jena said under the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana stress had been laid on the universal health care and special attention had been given to health care for the weaker sections of the society. Under the scheme free heath care will be given to people irrespective of caste, creed, race, income and residence at health sub centers up to the level of district headquarter hospitals.

Besides, assured heath care benefits up to Rs 7 lakh will be provided to women and Rs 5 lakh to men belonging to 70 lakh economically weaker section families. All the families eligible under Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Biju Krushak Kalyan Yojana and Odisha State Treatment Fund have been included under Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, said he.

“Already free heath care has been provided to 45 lakh beneficiaries within the first month of the inception of the scheme on August 15, “said the Minister.

On the other hand, 61 lakh families of Odisha were estimated to be included under Ayushman Bharat Yojana, under which health insurance facilities up to Rs 5 lakh will be given to each beneficiary family, official sources said.

Inorder to spread awareness about the benefits of the state’s own scheme, chief minister flagged off a caravan, a fleet of ten vehicles designed like chariots. In the first phase, these ten chariots will cover ten districts– (Ganjam, Khurda, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Koraput, Cuttack and Balangir). In the subsequent phases, such vehicles will be sent to other districts.

Audio-visual systems have been fitted with the chariot-shaped vehicles to spread the message of benefits of the health scheme. Besides cultural troupes will highlight its  features through folk art medium. The district folk art associations, block level associations and urban associations will be roped in to spread awareness about the scheme.  Such moves are likely to firm up his position ahead of the general elections.