BHUBANESWAR: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s demand before Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare Odisha as a ‘focus State’ and provide special grants pending consideration of special category status was backed by the Congress while BJP termed it as another drama of the ruling BJD.
“I welcome the demand made by the CM for special focus State to Odisha which has been ignored by successive Governments at the Centre. The State, being a victim of natural calamities, deserves special attention of the Centre,” said senior Congress leader and former minister Narasingh Mishra.
The Odisha Legislative Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution on 4 April, 2013 requesting the Centre to award special category status to the State.
It had urged the Centre to provide additional grants and fiscal incentives for the State’s development, he said.
This was the second time the Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution seeking special category status. The first such resolution was passed on November 18, 1997. “We (Congress) were party to that resolution.
The BJP, which is opposing the demand now, had supported the motion,” Mishra said.
The Congress leader, however, criticised the CM for not raising the issue when he was a Central Minister during NDA regime at the Centre.
“Naveen Babu was a minister in the NDA Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. When he became Chief Minister, the BJD was a coalition partner of BJP. The CM should clarify as to why he did not raise this demand at that time,” Mishra said.
Admitting that the Congress is equally to be blamed for not fulfilling the demand, Mishra said, “We don’t shy away from our responsibility.
We could not convince the UPA Government about the justification of according special status to Odisha.”
Rejecting the arguments of many including the Central Government that Odisha does not qualify for special category State status, Mishra said, “We are lawmakers. Let us change the law if the existing provisions do not allow to grant such a status to Odisha.”
On the other hand, dubbing the demand for special focus State status to Odisha, the BJP said it is another ‘drama’ of BJD to draw political mileage.
General secretary of the State BJP Prithviraj Harichandan said the BJD, which is playing politics over special category status for the last five years, has now planned another drama for next five years.
Lashing out at the State Government for its inability to utilise Central assistance, Harichandan said Odisha received maximum Central assistance during the Modi 1.0 Government.
The Centre has already released Rs 1,341 crore for the State to undertake relief, restoration and rehabilitation measures in cyclone Fani affected areas.
Instead of blowing its own trumpet on its efforts during and after the cyclone, the state government should concentrate on restoration works which still remain incomplete in many affected areas, he added.