Making All The Right Moves


As elections draw close chief minister Naveen Patnaik is making the right moves to win the support of the people. With preparations in full swing for the inauguration of the Puri Jagannath temple Parikrama project the entire focus is on the chief minister who turned the project into reality. He is being hailed as a visionary and a leader who has done everything possible to ensure the all-round development of Odisha

It’s clearly advantage of Naveen, as parties in Odisha gear up for the general elections. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s popularity seems to be at an all-time high with the stage set for the inauguration of his per project—the Shree Mandira Parikrama Project (SMPP), a massive periphery redevelopment of the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri.

Aware of the feelings that lord Jagannath evokes among the Odias the ruling dispensation is leaving no stones unturned to turn the inauguration into a memorable event. Some political observers believe that Patnaik is playing the religion card for the first time to stymie the ambitions of BJP which is equally busy preparing for the grand opening of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. The Puri and Ayodhya events appear to be competing with each other.

The ceremonies in Puri have been planned on a scale almost as grand as those conceived for the inauguration in Ayodhya. The Lokarpan Yajna for the project will take place with Vedic recitations at the four gates of the Puri temple. Sources said that Rigveda for the eastern gate, Yajurveda for the southern, Samaveda for the western, and Atharvaveda for the northern gate have been finalized.

Sources said that the Puri Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and Puri district administration are doing their best to ensure that the inauguration ceremony of the much-awaited Srimandir Parikrama (Heritage Corridor) Project is a grand success. About 30 teams comprising servitors and SJTA officials had left for various parts of the country to distribute invitation cards.

The Srimandira Parikrama is a 75-meter corridor around Shree Jagannatha Temple at Puri. It will ensure expansive, unobstructed corridors around the Meghanada Pacheri of the temple for giving an opportunity to devotees and pilgrims to have an excellent visual connect with the 12th century shrine. It will also provide amenities for pilgrims and strengthen the safety and security of the temple and devotees.

Taken up at a cost of ₹1,000 crore, the project includes a seven-metre green buffer zone, 10-metre Antar (inner) Pradakshina – pedestrian-only path round the year. It will be used by the general public for parikrama (circumambulation) of the temple. The eight-metre outer circumambulation path would be covered by trees on either side. There will be a 10-metre public convenience zone.

The main project includes 36 major projects including development of a security zone around the temple, creation of parking space for vehicles, flyover and Jagannath Ballav Math Pilgrim Center (JBMPC). The JBMPC is a unique infrastructure that will have meditation space (10,000 square metres), pilgrim amenities (5,000 sq. m.), commercial space (8,000 sq. m.) and multi-level car parking for 1,000 vehicles over 35,000 sq. m.

The project also proposes a queue management facility that can handle 6,000 people, along with a security checking facility. Efforts are also being made to redevelop ‘matha’ temples within the 75-metre Shree Jagannath Heritage Corridor. These ‘matha’ temples will be redeveloped in the Kalingan style in general and specific ‘matha’ traditions.

Sources said the Shree Mandir Parikrama Project is one component of a massive ₹4,224.22 crore project which seeks to transform Puri into a World Heritage City. The ongoing transformation is being described as a once-in-a-century temple development project with which chief minister Naveen Patnaik seeks to leave a lasting legacy.

The unveiling of the project is, no doubt, one of the most important events ahead of the 2024 elections. One should not be surprised if the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) approaches the next election riding the euphoria surrounding the project. The ruling party knows that the Jagannath cult has the biggest influence on the minds of the Odias. Nothing can impact the minds of the people of Odisha more than the sanctity of the 12th century temple and things attached with lord Jagannath who is considered to be a living god.

Patnaik, who has over the years turned into a master political strategist, is also taking steps to keep his party battle-ready for the upcoming elections. He set the tone for the 2024 general elections when presiding over the executive meeting of BJD he called upon the party rank and file to effectively counter the misinformation campaign by opposition political parties as they had nothing else to do.

The BJD’s main strength is the popularity of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. It has been on the rise ever since he stepped into politics in 1997 following his father Biju Patnaik’s death in 1997. The same year the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) was formed and came to power in 2000. It has been ruling the state uninterrupted since then.

The party’s popularity is based primarily on the slew of welfare schemes launched by the chief minister who has taken particular care of women and the poor. Following in the footsteps of his father Naveen has been trying his best to empower women through Mission Shakti which is now an independent government department. Recently the chief minister rolled out the ‘Mission Shakti Scooter Yojana’ for members of women’s self-help groups.

Significantly, the scheme was launched one day after the chief minister launched the “Ama Odisha- Nabin Odisha (Our Odisha- New Odisha) programme. The move made it clear that women empowerment and rural development would be the focus of ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) while campaigning for 2024 general elections.

Patnaik had launched a Rs 3397 crore scheme called “Ama Odisha, Nabin Odisha (Our Odisha, New Odisha)”, to make Odisha a modern, vibrant, and aspirational state.  Under the scheme, each panchayat of the state will receive Rs 50 lakhs to undertake various developmental works in their respective areas.

Under this scheme steps would be taken for the development of infrastructure in rural areas and promotion and conservation of Shree Jagannath culture and its heritage.  Significantly, the scheme will also promote internet connectivity in the rural areas with villages getting connection. The villages will be developed as role models.

Such moves have sent Patnaik’s popularity soaring and made him the darling of the people who have been voting for him faithfully in the elections. Their loyalty is unlikely to change in the coming general elections.