Striking The Right Notes

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Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik has matured as a politician.He is currently in the most important phase of his political career and making all the right moves. He seems to be working with single-minded dedication to garner popular support to win the next polls. The chief minister seems to have read the voters’ pulse correctly. 

Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik is in a phase of his political career where he cannot put a foot wrong. Even in dealing with tricky leaders like former minister, Damodar Rout, whom he recently expelled from the party, the chief minister has so far acted in a wise and balanced manner.

The fact is that he has been making all the right moves ahead of the elections while taking steps to keep the BJP at bay. Patnaik seems to have already firmed up his strategy in  this  regard. It feeds on the weaknesses of his principal rival in the state.

Part of the strategy to keep his principal rival in check is to step up the Save Mahanadi campaign while highlighting the BJP-ruled Centre and Chhattisgarh government’s allegedly biased attitude against Odisha. At the same time he is focusing on stepping up his pro-poor initiatives.

“On the Mahanadi, our stand is clear. We are critical of the Centre because of its support to Chhattisgarh, which has constructed barrages in the river upstream, thus reducing its water flow in the downstream. Several areas in Odisha are facing the threat of turning arid because of this,” said a BJD leader adding that the role of the state BJP in the matter was suspect.

“They appear to be putting the party above the state as they can neither afford to go against the Centre nor Chhattisgarh, where elections are due this year. We will expose them completely on this,” he said.

The leader felt the BJD would also gain from initiatives such as distribution of land “pattas” to slum dwellers by the chief minister. “The BJP can come nowhere near us as far as our efforts to empower the poorer sections of the society are concerned. They have only been talking big about the development of the downtrodden,” he said.

The BJD has also stepped up the implementation of its rural outreach programme, Ama Gaon Ama Vikas (our village, our development), widely perceived as a counter to the BJP’s Mo Booth Sabuthu Mazboot (my booth is the strongest) initiative.

While ruling party leaders feel the government’s welfare measures are likely to pay dividends in the next elections, BJP leaders dismiss the possibility.

“The fact is that they have botched up the implementation of most of the schemes with their benefits not percolating to the grassroots level. Thus, there has been no major change in the living standards of the poor. We are going to expose them on this,” said a BJP leader.

Opposition leaders have also sought to highlight the internal differences within the ruling party on crucial issues such as the Mahanadi water sharing dispute with Chhattisgarh.

“Former minister Damodar Rout has openly expressed his dissatisfaction for not being consulted on the Mahanadi issue. This shows the BJD is not united,” said a Congress leader. However, ruling BJD leaders trash such criticism.

On the other hand to win back the confidence of farmers, chief minister Naveen Patnaik has been reaching out to them almost on a daily basis to convey his government’s initiatives taken for the overall welfare of the community.

Last year, the state government had come under fire from the Opposition following alleged suicides by farmers, particularly in west Odisha, over crop failure. The death of Brinda Sahu, a Bargarh farmer, had provided enough fuel to the BJP and the Congress to mount attacks on the BJD.

The exercise of chief minister meeting farmers began in June this year. So far, Naveen has met more than 500 farmers from different blocks of the state. “He will meet 50 farmers from each of the state’s 314 blocks,” said an official.

The Institute of Management on Agricultural Extension has been tasked to bring farmers here. An official of the Institute said: “The farmers are taken to our classrooms and made aware about various schemes in agriculture, horticulture and other allied sectors. Then they are taken to Orissa University of Agriculture Technology and field trips are organised to give them the exposure.”

Describing these meetings a clever ploy ahead of the general elections, BJD sources said that they would act as Naveen’s foot soldiers in taking forward the message of good governance.

Paralakhemundi farmer P. Bhaskar Rao, who met had Naveen, said: “He asked us many questions relating to agriculture. Besides, what we learnt about agriculture in Bhubaneswar will stand us in good stead.”

The chief minister has also launched a new initiative ‘Ama Mukhya Mantri, Ama Katha’ (Our Chief Minister, our issues) to discuss social issues with the people through video conferencing under the programme. “It is an attempt to expedite social transformation process through dialogue,” said a BJD leader.

In the first edition of the programme, the Chief Minister laid emphasis on education for social transformation. He asked the peoples’ representatives of at least 112-gram panchayats under six blocks in five districts, who attended the programme, to focus on education of their children. “The parents should ensure that all children must be enrolled in schools,” he said.

Naveen informed the people that the gram panchayat that will achieve 100 per cent attendance of students in schools will be rewarded by the state government. Under the ‘Ama Goan, Ama Bikash’ programme, Naveen sanctioned developmental projects worth Rs.24.25 crore for Gurundia and Kuanrmunda blocks in Sundargarh, Bongamunda block in Balangir, Bhanjanagar block in Ganjam, Dampada block in Cuttack and Pottangi block in Koraput district.

These schemes are also linked to Naveen’s Ts – transparency, teamwork and technology – and his 3Ds – dedication, determination and devotion (3Ds), his new formula for good governance which has been widely appreciated. With such initiatives the chief minister is likely to rise further in public esteem. This is exactly what he needs to do ahead of then next polls.

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