Defensive BJD, Toothless Opposition

Published: 30th December 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th December 2015 06:00 AM   |  A+A-

Farmers' suicide, a severe drought and irregularities during the Nabakalebara ceremony of Lord Jagannath kept the Government on its toes in 2015 forcing the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to be on the back foot despite its overwhelming majority in the Assembly.

Though the Opposition had gained an upper hand over the ruling BJD because of various acts of omission and commission by the State Government, the benefit was frittered away during the winter session of the Assembly in December when one of the Congress MLAs Naba Kishore Das was suspended from the House for a week for allegedly watching 'porn' on his mobile. The suspension of the MLA brought the Congress and BJP together for a cause. Both the parties kept away from the House in protest against the manner in which Das was suspended without giving him a chance to defend his position.

There was all round criticism of the State Government's inaction even though 26 of 30 districts were hit by a severe drought. Though farmers' suicide continues unabated with more than 150 taking their lives so far because of crop loss and debt burden, the State Government is yet to acknowledge the fact. To counter the growing Opposition criticism over these two issues, the BJD organised a farmers' rally at Sohela in Bargarh district on November 19 as a show of strength. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who addressed the rally announced a number of measures for the drought-hit farmers.

The State Government, which announced a joint inquiry by district Collectors and Superintendents of Police into farmer suicide cases, maintained that the death of farmers had nothing to do with crop loss or debt burden. The Government claimed the farmers ended their lives mainly due to family problems.

Two memoranda with a request to provide `2199 crore was submitted to the Centre by the State Government to tackle the drought situation which affected 215 of 314 blocks. However, the Centre is yet to respond to the State's plea for financial assistance giving BJD a chance to raise the Central apathy issue again.

While Naveen was accused of remaining insensitive towards farmers' plight and not visiting any of the deceased families, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi led a 'save farmer march' on September 10 in Bargarh district where he met family members of a farmer who had committed suicide.

Adding to the worries of the Government and the ruling party, reports of starvation death of a woman at Gutupalli village in Balangir district on December 7 drew flak from all quarters and led to disruption of the Assembly.

A series of controversies rocked the State Government during the Nabakalebara festival because of allegations of gross mismanagement in rituals for the event which marks replacement of the idols of the presiding deities Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra of the Puri temple. Chaos marked the entire process for a period of over four months from the start of 'Banajaga Yatra' to locate and select sacred neem trees to 'Brahma Paribartan' marking transfer of life substance from the old idols to the new ones and finally the Rath Yatra and return car festival in July.

The State Government came under flak with Opposition demanding the Chief Minister's resignation for the mismanagement, particularly alleged violation of age-old rituals for transfer of holy 'Brahmas' from the old idols to the newly built ones.

While the sacred ritual was delayed by almost a day, servitors were accused of having seen and touched the 'Brahma'.  Though the State Government's preparations for the grand event were inadequate, the Nabakalebara passed off peacefully without any incident. More than 15 lakh devotees thronged the Grand Road at Puri to witness the Rath Yatra on July 18.

The Industrial scenario remained gloomy amid tardy and sluggish progress despite the State Government's claim about attracting lakhs of crores of rupees investments as mega projects like Posco and Vedanta failed to make headway due to varied reasons including mineral linkage. Posco even put its Odisha operation on hold. The only positive was the commissioning of the first phase of Tata Steel's six million tonne per annum steel plant set up with an investment of `25,000 crore at Kalinga Nagar. The Gopalpur Port was re-commissioned and opened for cargo traffic in December.

Adding a new feather to the steel sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the 4.5 million tonne second modernisation project of Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), built with an expenditure of `12,000 crore, to nation in April.

The State Government had to face an embarrassing situation when Governor SC Jamir returned the Odisha Police Bill, 2015, which had been passed in the Assembly in August, and asked the State Government to re-introduce it for consideration of the House. The Bill was passed in the House in absence of the Opposition on August 27.

Though 2015 remained tough for the State Government and the BJD, the Opposition failed to capitalise on it. Factionalism came to the fore in Congress when several MLAs made a trip to New Delhi twice to change Congress whip in the Assembly Tara Prasad Bahinipati. Former union minister Bhakta Charan Das raised the banner of revolt against Congress State president Prasad Harichandan over the issue of appointment of former MLA Gobardhan Das as Kalahandi district president.

Even though several Union Ministers visited the State and countered the Government's allegations of funds cut and neglect of Odisha, the BJP does not seem to have emerged as stronger despite the charm of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The State Government had to pass through a difficult time because of funds cut and closure of several schemes by the Centre.


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