The importance of Orissa in the current Lok Sabha poll was underlined once again on Wednesday, as both Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, 39, and the BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant Lal Krishna Advani, 81, chose it as the first port of call in their campaign for the second phase of elections to be held on April 23.
With half the state set to vote on Thursday – where campaigning has already ended – both concentrated on the coastal areas and parts of North Orissa, Rahul addressing rallies in Balasore and Kendrapara, while Advani did the same in Mayurbhanj and Puri.
The theme and tenor of their speeches conformed to pattern. Rahul, in both his meetings, attacked the state government for failing to implement various centrally funded poverty alleviating schemes. “I’ve never seen the kind of poverty I saw in Orissa anywhere else,” he said, going into some detail about initiatives like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme the UPA government had begun. “Money provided by the center is not reaching those it is supposed to.
Kendrapara, where Rahul held his second meeting, is a Biju Janata Dal bastion with the high profile Baiyant ‘Jay’ Panda as its MP. The Congress has pitted former national cricket selector Ranjib Biswal against him.
Advani at his rally at Karanjia in Mayurbhanj district asked voters to give the BJP a chance at the centre so that the UPA government’s neglect of Orissa could end.
“The UPA government has failed on all fronts and did not succeed to contain terrorism and price rise,” Advani said.
He also spoke out against the BJD’s unexpected decision in early March, to break its 11-year-old alliance with BJP. Advani’s rally at Puri was significant as current MP Brajakishore Tripathy, 62, is the BJP candidate. Tripathy has won thrice on a BJD ticket from Puri Lok Sabha constituency in 1998, 1999 and 2004. After being denied a party ticket, Tripathy has now joined the BJP.