Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday hit out at the Centre accusing it of following a policy of "political discrimination" in grant of central assistance even as he made a strong pitch of special category status for his state.
"The policy of political discrimination pursued by the UPA government is a dangerous trend, not conducive to a healthy federal structure. The UPA government is following different policies for different states," Patnaik said addressing a rally in New Delhi.
He alleged that the "self-interest" of the Congress party has become the "sole criteria" for central assistance ignoring the "just demands" of states like Odisha which fulfill all criteria required for grant of special status.
"The central government has been giving funds to different states on political considerations. Should the money paid by crores of tax payers of the country be used for a narrow interest of a political party?" he asked.
The demand for special status "shall continue till we achieve our just demand" because it concerns the "Oriya dignity" and aspirations of the four crore people of the state, he said.
Patnaik, who sought to strike a chord with the crowd by speaking in his mother tongue, said the nation cannot move forward by denying even one state of its rightful claim but "successive government's at the centre have ignored their demand for justice".
Apparently hitting out at opposition Congress and BJP in the state which have described the gathering here as an "amusement rally", Patnaik said he was disappointed that some leaders in the state and political parties were engaged in compromising the dignity of the state.
Accusing the Centre of being discriminatory towards his state even at the time of natural calamities like floods and cyclone, Patnaik said, "Such a massive injustice and neglect can never be tolerated".
He referred to the low rail network penetration in the state and the alleged indifference of the Centre towards the poor and the tribal living in and around mining areas among others to buttress his claim of the Centre's neglect.
The chief minister said the Centre was also ignoring the fact that the state is home to one crore tribals with many living in hilly and difficult terrains like the 'KBK' region and has a 480-km-long coastline and defence establishments.
Talking to PTI, Patnaik had on Tuesday regretted the Planning Commission's rejection of the state's demand for special category status and said the rally was being organised to strengthen its demand.
The Commission had cited the state's stable finances and sound indicators such as fiscal deficit and outstanding liabilities while rejecting the special category status demand.
Addressing the rally, Patnaik sought to know why a state should be deprived of its rights when it is trying its level best to move forward despite adversities.
He said the special assistance can give a big boost to the state's development initiatives.
"I strongly believe if Odisha is given special category status, we can root out poverty from Odisha in less than a decade," he said.
He said the state's aim is to sustain the development achieved in the last 12 years and strengthen agriculture and industrial infrastructure.
Patnaik, who would meet the President later in the day to submit a memorandum with one crore signatures, said the economy there was growing despite discrimination.
Various developmental schemes were being implemented and the poverty alleviation measures had started yielding results, the chief minister said.