Accusing the UPA government of “discriminating” against Odisha in the grant for central assistance, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik made a strong pitch for a special category status for his state on Wednesday.
“Self interest of the Congress is the sole criteria for determining central assistance to states. Just demands of states like Odisha have been ignored”, Patnaik said at a rally in the Capital.
“The union 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. Patnaik’s reference was apparently to the fact that Bihar, in comparison, has lately been granted a larger share of the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), though the chief minister made no specific mention of this.
Patnaik said the centre’s discriminatory attitude was evident even in situations of natural calamities, while saying that “such a massive neglect and indifference of the centre” cannot be tolerated.
Patnaik’s rally comes three months after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had addressed a rally in Delhi to espouse a similar cause.
Patnaik later met President Pranab Mukherjee and presented him a memorandum demanding that the “Oriya dignity” must be honoured by meeting the aspirations of the four crore people of the state.
In the run-up to the 2014 general elections, Patnaik’s show of strength is seen as a strategy to consolidate the party’s political base in Odisha, while positioning himself for a future role in national politics.
Patnaik 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.
“The centre is ignoring the fact that Odisha is home to one crore tribals and has a 480-km long coastline and defence establishments”, he said.