Naveen Patnaik slams Centre, silent on buzz around supporting NDA in 2019
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Naveen Patnaik slams Centre, silent on buzz around supporting NDA in 2019

Naveen Patnaik posed nine questions to the Centre, each mocking the Modi government’s schemes like Ujwala, under which gas connections are offered to the poor, telecom connectivity plans, completion plans for national highways and the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana (crop insurance scheme).

india Updated: Dec 26, 2018 22:02 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Naveen Patnaik,financial autonomy for Odisha,Odisha
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday accused the Centre of step-motherly treatment of Odisha and attacked a range of central schemes, but kept everyone guessing on the likelihood of his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) offering the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) support in forming a government after the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.(AP)

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday accused the Centre of step-motherly treatment of Odisha and attacked a range of central schemes, but kept everyone guessing on the likelihood of his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) offering the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) support in forming a government after the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

Speaking in Odia at an event to mark the 21st foundation day of the BJD, Patnaik invoked his late father and former CM Biju Patnaik to outline his vision for Odisha. “Biju babu was right. He had said give me financial autonomy and I can make Odisha one of the top states of South Asia. I don’t want any central assistance or grants. I will develop Odisha with Odisha’s own money,” the CM said.

In a scathing attack of the BJP, Patnaik posed nine questions to the Centre, each mocking the Modi government’s schemes like Ujwala, under which gas connections are offered to the poor, telecom connectivity plans, completion plans for national highways and the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana (crop insurance scheme).

Also Read: ‘Modi’s speech exposes secret ties between BJP, BJD’: Congress

“Travel from Rourkela to Cuttack and up to Sambalpur -- no problem. That is a Biju Expressway (a state government scheme). But from Sambalpur onwards, or between Baripada and Deogarh, you can sense the state of the National Highway without even opening your eyes.And we are still waiting for that coastal highway. Similarly, BSNL(Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) is a big telecom network but half of Odisha’s villages don’t have have it. You have to ascend a high-rise or learn how to climb a tree to speak over a mobile,” he said.

Patnaik also ridiculed the Ujjwala scheme under which Modi had claimed to have distributed 3 million free cooking gas connections in Odisha. Not many are opting for refills given the rising price of gas cylinders, the CM said.

“In Railways, there have been changes, but only in the rates of platform and train tickets. As for the Khurda-Bolangir railway line for which the state government is bearing half the cost, work has just not progressed. Private insurance companies, not farmers, are getting the benefits of the Fasal Beema Yojana. The money for supporting scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) has been stopped. Even scholarship money for SC/ST students was halted two years ago,” he alleged.

Patnaik adopted the tactic employed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally near Bhubaneswar two days ago and stopped short of attacking the PM himself. In a speech on December 24, the PM had criticised rising corruption in Odisha and the state’s refusal to join national schemes, but made no mention of Patnaik.

“States even weaker than Odisha have moved ahead. Why is Odisha not moving? ...the demon of corruption has become so powerful here. Who feeds this demon? Why are Odia youth fleeing? Why are Odia women malnourished and why are half the posts of doctors lying vacant? Why is a large part of Odisha not getting clean drinking water,” Modi said. “If Odisha had implemented the Ayushman Bharat scheme, people here would have received free medical care too.”

Patnaik’s latest diatribe, coupled with his strategic silence over Modi, has rekindled speculation that the two parties, which were allies between 1998 and 2009, may be getting close again. Angry over the perceived role of the saffron brigade in the Kandhamal riots in 2008, Patnaik had broken away from the alliance in 2009, just weeks ahead of the assembly polls that year.

During Modi’s visit to Odisha on December 24, the PM and Patnaik shared the stage at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bhubaneswar while releasing a postage stamp and a commemorative coin on the bicentenary of the 1817 Paika Rebellion. They even seemed to share the odd joke, triggering accusations by the Congress that they had a secret pact.

Also Read: BJD MPs, MLAs asked to donate one-month salary to party fund by Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik

Political analysts in Odisha said Patnaik may be open to supporting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, should it fall short of a majority next year.

“In the last 4-1/2 years of PM Modi’s rule, Patnaik has done nothing that would be seen as even remotely critical of Modi’s leadership,” former political science professor of Sambalpur university, SP Dash, said, pointing out that the BJD had supported the BJP’s choice of Ramnath Kovind as president and walked out of parliament during the no-trust vote against the Modi government this year.

First Published: Dec 26, 2018 20:22 IST