Bhubaneswar: Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik and Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is being considered as the BJP chief ministerial candidate, have started fighting a fierce battle to take credit for the current wave of development in the state so as to impress the voters for the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
Their bitterness has come to such a pass that leaders of their respective parties have stopped sharing dais even at official functions, including inauguration of government projects.
Though some political analysts predict post-poll understanding between the two parties as they share common anti-Congress ideology in the event none of them gets a majority, sources said that both the parties are also equally enthusiastic to outshine each other in the 2019 elections to establish their one-upmanship in state politics.
Ever since Mr Pradhan became a Union minister in 2014, he determinedly worked to ensure that BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik did not walk away with all the credit for development works taking place in the state.
The fight for the credit between the BJD and BJP started in 2014 when the BJP leaders led by Mr Pradhan protested against display of Odisha government’s logo on 420 vehicles of “108” ambulance service. Besides the logo, the ambulances also used to carry this message — “Odisha Zaroorikalin Ambulance Seva (Odisha emergency ambulance service).”
After the BJP’s protest, the ambulances were repainted with a new message — “Rashtriya Ambulance Seva (National ambulance services).”
In 2015, the BJP challenged the BJD government’s claim that supply of rice at Rs 1 per kg to below poverty line (BPL) families was its own food security scheme. Through successful campaigning, the saffron party forced the Naveen Patnaik government to admit that the Centre was giving Rs 29 subsidy on every kilogram of rice while the state’s share was only Rs 2. The beneficiary was paying just one rupee to buy a kilogram of rice priced at Rs 31 per kg.
The BJP through massive public relations campaign showcased Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOCL) Rs 35,000-crore refinery project at Paradip, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Bhubaneswar and Indian Institute of Management at Sambalpur, plastic park at Paradip and Central approval of Talcher fertiliser plant as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union minister Mr Pradhan’s gifts to Odisha.
Realising that the BJP’s aggressive campaign was corroding its “pro-people image,” the BJD rolled out a number of social security measures, including housing and insurance benefits for construction workers and people working in many other unorganised sectors. Besides, it also announced land and houses for people living in slums in different urban centres; laptops for school and college students.
The competition for claiming the credit for different contributions continued to gather momentum during the current year with both the parties indulging public spats.
Very recently, the BJD government claimed that five medical colleges that came up at Koraput, Balasore, Puri, Bolangir and Baripada were its contributions and the institutions were established with the state’s own resources. Despite 60 per cent fund contribution by the Centre to these health institutions, the state government did not print names of the Union health minister J.P. Nadda and Union minister of state for health Ashwini Kumar Choubey in the invitation cards for inauguration of Bolangir Medical College and Pandit Raghunath Murumu Medical College at Baripada. Aggrieved, Mr Choubey shared the figures of the Central government’s contribution to all the medical colleges.
“For the five medical colleges in Odisha, the Centre has released a total Rs 558.6 crore at 60:40 ratio,” Mr Choubey said.
The latest fight that is being fought in the public is over the recent announcement of Ayushman Bharat Yojana health scheme by the Narendra Modi government.
The BJD government has rejected it saying it is inadequate to address the concerns of the BPL people in Odisha.
Sensing that the implementation of the Ayushman Bharat Yojana would eat into its vote bank at the grassroots, CM Naveen Patnaik has announced Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY).
The BJP, like previous instances, has depicted Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana “as yet another attempt to hijack in the Central government scheme.”
“Odisha finance secretary Tuhinkanta Pandey has already admitted that the the Rs 7000-crore Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, the Central share is Rs 700 crore. We will not allow the BJD to claim all the credit for the BSKY,” said BJP vice president Samir Mohanty.
In the latest battle of seeking public attention, the Naveen Patnaik government, in retaliation to Mr Pradhan’s Investors’ Conclave at Surat in Gujarat, is going to host a “Make in Odisha” event in this month of September.
In the past few months, neither Mr Patnaik nor his ministers have shared dais with Mr Pradhan on Central government project inauguration ceremonies as an act of anti-BJP posturing.
“The battle between BJD and BJP for credits for contributions to the state’s growth will grow shriller in the coming days since the BJP is rising in the state at a threatening pace ever since 2017 rural pace.
Both the parties have buried since long issue-based politics and rather concentrating on the this new strategy of claiming credits for developmentof the state to impress the voters,” observes political analyst Rabi Das.