The capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, is all set to go for polls on the April 23, 2019. The area had long been a strong- hold of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the latter half of 20th century with Shivaji Patnaik winning the Lok Sabha seat in 1977, 1989 and 1991.
However, in the recent years, Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Prasanna Patsani won five times in a row, making Bhubaneswar a strong-hold of BJD. Despite the favourable mandate, BJD has changed its Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha candidate. The new face, Arup Patnaik, is a 1979 Maharashtra cadre retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate is an Odisha cadre Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer of 1994 batch- Aparajita Sarangi, who resigned from her job to join politics. The CPI(M) candidate, backed by the Congress is Janardan Pati, a senior leader of the party who served as the state secretary of the party for 24 years (from 1991 to 2015). All the three candidates are contesting Lok Sabha elections for the first time. While the first two candidates are new to politics, Janardan Pati is a known face in Odisha owing to the numerous struggles carried out by CPI (M) in Odisha.
Bhubaneswar is partially urban and partially rural, which makes it a unique constituency. But perhaps because the focus remains on urban Bhubaneswar, the problems of rural areas are often ignored. However, the city also has its own problems like poor transport connectivity, high number of slums, drinking water scarcity, improper housing, etc.
In 2016, Bhubaneswar was declared as number one smart city. Ironically, more than 30% of the population lives in slums and strives for clean drinking water. The city has an improper transportation system and majority of the present transportation facilities were provided only since the city hosted the International Hockey tournament. The nearby villages which also fall under the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency are not properly connected with the city. The last housing project was during the COngress regime nearly 19 years ago.No projects has come up ever since.
According to Janardan Pati, “Bhubaneswar is the only capital in the country with a bad transportation system. Around three lakh people of the city live in the slums. There have been times when the slums-dwellers could have been provided proper housing, but it has been high time since Bhubaneswar has seen any real time housing been done by the housing board. The motive of the governments both at Centre and state seemed more to throw out slum dwellers from the city rather than provide them a good life in the city itself. The Bhubaneswar city has a huge problem of drinking water supply, which hasn’t been addressed by both BJP and BJD yet. Proper footpaths are not present for pedestrians, due to which they share the road with massive vehicles, hence increasing the probabilities of accidents. Again the constituency is half rural, the problems of which are one of its kind. The peasants are facing problems related to irrigation and are not being provided minimum support price of their crops. The government at both the levels have also failed in providing proper wages to workers. Around 99% of the contractual workers are earning less than 10,000/month. This makes it difficult for them to survive in a city like Bhubaneswar. Massive movements have been launched by the people of the state along on various issues like employment and drinking water supply, but the government has never paid heed.”
As far as Industrial development is concerned, the state has not developed much. It doesn’t have most of the manufacturing industries like textile industries, bicycle manufacturing industries, etc. The cotton produced in Bolangir and Kalahandi is exported to Tamil Nadu and Ahmedabad for production of clothing and most of the clothes are imported from these places to Odisha. This entire scenario kills a lot of scope for employment opportunities in the state.
As far as the candidates of BJP and BJD are concerned, they have been working in a completely different avenue than the one required by a legislator, hence they are quite inexperienced in knowing the problems of Odisha. However, both of them claim that they are into politics to serve people.
The BJD candidate Arup Patnaik was a Maharashtra cadre IPS officer who spent most of his time in Maharashtra. Although quite a famous name, Patnaik came to Odisha only recently and hence his knowledge on the peculiarity of problems specific to Odisha and Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency is quite doubtful.
On the other side, the BJP candidate Aparajita Sarangi had served as Additional District Magistrate (ADM) of Bhubaneswar and during that time, she had cancelled the land pattas given to dalits during Nandini Satpathy- led Congress regime, citing various reasons. Later, she served as Municipal Commissioner, and spent a good amount of money on beautification of the city, which at the time could have been used for improving drinking water supply, construction of footpaths and more such conspicuous problems of the city.
“The people of Bhubaneswar need to take proper decision keeping in mind that one can serve the nation in numerous ways and need not join politics to do that. What is required to be in politics is a knowledge of policy-making, its implementation, knowledge on problems of people and ability to address them.” said Pati.