Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal came out in force in a rally, Odisha Bachao (Save Orissa), on Friday near Vedanta Group's alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district to protest the Centre's "stepmotherly" treatment.
The reference was to the central government's rejection of Vedanta's Rs 4,500-crore bauxite mining project in Nyamgiri hills for alleged violation of environmental norms.
Congress MP in Kalahandi Bhakta Charan Das said the BJD's rally was, in fact, a "Vedanta banchao (save Vedanta)" movement. He told reporters that rattled by the tribals' firm stand against Vedanta, the BJD was eager to protect the interests of the company.
Although the state on Friday constituted a body to monitor how industries were following environmental and forest norms, Das alleged the CM had overlooked many omissions and commissions committed by the company, as he was being remote-controlled by Vedanta.
The BJD rally also seemed to be a political answer to Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's "Adibasi Adhikar Diwas (Tribal Rights Day)" eight days ago to celebrate the Centre's decision to scrap Vedanta bauxite mining project.
Organised by the youth wing of the BJD, Friday's rally was attended by eight Orissa ministers, two MPs and almost all tribal MLAs of the party. Patnaik, however, skipped the meeting.
Eager to show its strength in response to Gandhi's Nyamgiri rally on August 26, the BJD mobilised workers from five neighbouring districts. Many of the tribal MLAs even spoke in kui language, spoken by Dongria Kandh tribals who organised the resistance against the Vedanta mining project.
The ministers, in their speeches, lambasted the Centre for its "double standards". They said while it refused clearance to Vedanta and Posco projects in Orissa, it granted clearance to the Polavaram dam in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh.
The ministers said if implemented, the Polavaram dam would submerge a large area in Orissa's Malkangiri district.
The ministers' main target was Gandhi who, they said, was "anti-Orissa" and "anti-development". They termed his visit to Lanjigarh "politically motivated".