MALKANGIRI: WARY of the Bengali community shifting its loyalty to the BJP this time, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday played the Bengali card to shore up the electoral fortunes of BJD’s Nabarangpur Lok Sabha candidate Ramesh Chandra Majhi and Malkangiri Assembly segment candidate Mukund Sodi.
The Bengali settler community constitutes a major chunk of the electorate here.
Addressing a huge gathering at the mini stadium in Maoist fortress Kalimela, Naveen - accompanied by former minister Arabinda Dhali - called upon the Bengali community to vote for the BJD, and not BJP.
Attacking leaders of the national party, the BJD supremo said they only come to Odisha during the elections. “They have never come during natural calamities that hit the State time and again. These tall leaders of the BJP are now promising the moon to the voters, just to seek votes. I want to ask the BJP’s Central leaders whose interest are they serving by permitting the Polavaram project, scrapping of KBK Yojana and discontinuing scholarship for poor SC and ST students,” the Chief Minister said.
Without naming anyone, Naveen said the BJP leaders are shedding crocodile tears for the State with the elections just a week away. On the other hand, he has always been with them and would always remain so, he said. “Bless me. Cast your vote in favour of conch symbol. Cast it twice, one for the BJD MLA candidate and another for the MP candidate”, he requested them. Naveen assured to sort out problems faced by the Bengali community.
He also addressed a public gathering at Maithili, a part of Chitrakonda Assembly segment, and sought support for party candidate Purna Chandra Baka and Lok Sabha candidate Ramesh Chandra Majhi.
Dhali also assured the settlers that BJD is committed to protecting their interest. “Naveen Patnaik has been protecting you ever since you started living here as Indian citizens and will continue to do so”, he said.
Malkangiri Assembly constituency where BJD’s Mukund Sodi is pitted against Aditya Madhi of BJP and Mala Madhi of Congress, is home to 85,000 registered Bengali-speaking voters spread across about 171 villages.
Earlier when the BJD gave ticket to Sodi by replacing incumbent Manas Madkami, the Bengali voters came out in the open against Dhali, who is the chairman of the State Seeds Corporation. They had alleged that conspiracy was being hatched by Dhali against the legislator despite the fact that the constituency had witnessed development during Madkami’s tenure.
Majhi, Sodi as well as Madkami were also present at the Kalimela meeting.