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Odisha: Ahead of PM’s Visit, Naveen Rolls out 18 Welfare Schemes in 20 Days

D N Singh |
There’s buzz in the state that PM Modi may announce yet another Bharat Ratna – for Biju Patnaik – in a bid to ‘warm up’ to BJD.
There’s buzz in the state that PM Modi may announce yet another Bharat Ratna – for Biju Patnaik – in a bid to ‘warm up’ to BJD.

Image Courtesy: Flickr

Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has already signalled a record sixth term for himself, as is evident from the deftness with which he has started playing his cards before the 2024 Assembly elections to be held along with the Lok Sabha elections.

Instead of wasting time over BJD’s two main rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress, the former in particular, Patnaik has left no occasion to convey that he is not with any camp.

As in the earlier two Lok Sabha polls, the BJD has this time, too, tailored its pre-poll campaigns carefully, despite Patnaik’s much-hyped handshakes with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BJD leader has already accelerated his outreach to the people of Odisha by creating an environment of ‘giving’.

“In February alone, Patnaik unrolled more than 18 welfare schemes to people from all strata, sending a signal, even to the Centre, that the dispensation led by him is least worried by the triumphalism being displayed by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)” Rabi Das, a senior political analyst, told this writer.

From sports celebrities to masons, down to Kendu leaf pluckers and Anganwadi workers, Patnaik seems to have offered a palliative for all sections.

Not a day passes when the Chief Minister does not make an effort to demonstrate his political foresight, which is inextricably linked to governance.

To name a few of these, in his zeal to make Odisha a global hub for sports, hockey in particular, he has taken a step further to create international avenues for cricket as well.

The BJD government has also announced cash awards for the state's outstanding hockey players.

A blueprint for ‘state of the art’ sports infrastructure projects worth Rs.660 crore was launched by the Chief Minister last Monday, which includes cricket stadia.

The Odisha cabinet, under his chairmanship, has also approved Rs.2,000 as financial assistance to landless agricultural households as also financial support for 70 lakh SHG (self-help group) members

The state government has also hiked remuneration for cooks and assistant cooks engaged in the Mid-Day Meal scheme.

Within hardly 20 days, Patnaik has rolled out more than 18 such schemes, which has raised eyebrows, more so because the Prime Minister is slated to visit Odisha on March 5, when besides other poll-related issues, Modi is likely to posthumously announce the Bharat Ratna (the country’s highest civilian award) for the legendary Biju Patnaik, late father of Naveen Patnaik.

Sources in the BJP, requesting anonymity, indicated that the Prime Minister may also announce a renewed alliance between BJP and BJD for the 2024 polls. Which obviously signals further bonding and renewed bonhomie between both the parties.

Although, till date, since 2000, when he became the Chief Minister of Odisha, Patnaik has managed to stay away from any controversy to maintain his image and has also projected an ‘equidistance’ from BJP and Congress. (Though in the recent Rajya Sabha pools, the BJD backed BJP’s Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.)

The truce between BJD and BJP, which began in 2000, came to an end in 2009 when both parted ways after nine years of alliance.

“A politician of a different kind, Patnaik has carefully refrained from speech-making, yet he has been able to steamroll the barbs of his rivals with his biggest weapon, that is humility,” said Das.

He said: “Deeds are best answers to injurious words”, so Patnaik’s other strength is the slew of welfare measures launched by him that continue to this date.

Close observers of Patnaik’s political trajectory say that he seems to have an unconquerable passion for power but has managed to keep it hidden by his style of politics (of decency), which has become a daunting reality for the Opposition as a whole.

The writer is an independent journalist. The views are personal.

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