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Naveen Patnaik showers sops before Bijepur bypoll fight with BJP

The Election Commission has yet to announce the dates but Bijepur is turning out to be a prestige fight between the BJD and BJP.

india Updated: Oct 25, 2017 20:33 IST
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Naveen Patnaik,Odisha CM,Bijepur bypoll
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik addresses press at his residence in Bhubaneswar.(PTI File Photo)

The Naveen Patnaik government announced a drought package for farmers and promised to make Bijepur a municipality, ahead of a high-voltage bypoll in this western Odisha constituency.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of Congress legislator Subal Sahu, whose wife Rita will be the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) candidate.

The Election Commission has yet to announce the dates but Bijepur is turning out to be a prestige fight between the BJD and BJP, which has done well in this summer’s panchayat polls in the region adjoining party-ruled Chhattisgarh.

The government announced a drought package for 70 blocks, including Bijepur, for crop loss because of a poor monsoon.

Agriculture subsidy will be given at Rs 6,800 a hectare in non-irrigated areas and Rs 13,500 in areas having irrigation to small and marginal farmers who lost 33% and above of their crops.

Drought-hit farmers will get 50% remission on land revenue, while tuition and examination fees in government and aided schools and colleges are waived off.

The government had also announced a Rs1,246-crore lift irrigation project named after poet Gangadhar Meher for Bijepur.

Located at a higher elevation, Bijepur is drought-prone as water flowing through canals from the Mahanadi doesn’t reach the region.

In addition to these packages, it was announced that Bijepur will be given the status of a notified area council and a sub-registrar’s office for registration of land documents will be set up too.

BJP leader Prithiviraj Harichandan called these announcements “nothing more than empty promises with no budgetary provisions”.

The party hopes to consolidate its position after the good show in the rural polls.

But the BJD is confidant of stopping its resurgent and aggressive rival. Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Prasanna Acharya said the BJP “should stop daydreaming over Bijepur”.

The BJP has drafted in BJD rebel leader Ashok Panigrahy and plans a high-voltage campaign, led by Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Ministers from neighbouring Chhattisgarh are expected to lend heft to the party’s campaign.

“If BJP wins the bypoll, it would signal a decline of Naveen Patnaik’s popularity … If BJD wins, it would make Naveen’s fifth term easier. He may even advance the assembly elections to 2018,” political analyst Rabi Das said.

Assembly elections are due in the state in 2019.

First Published: Oct 25, 2017 20:28 IST