BHUBANESWAR: The visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Odisha has bolstered the state Congress. The national party has now got the talking points for the ensuing panchayat polls as it can now try to convince the voters that the BJD’s main poll plank of Central neglect of Odisha is only a stunt.
The Congress is also preparing to strike back on the issue of corruption after the prime minister assured that there will be investigation into all scams as per law. The corrupt will be punished, Singh told the state Congress leaders whom he met at the state Congress headquarters on January 3 during his visit to inaugurate the Indian Science Congress. This is for the first time that Singh visited the Congress Bhavan here as a prime minister. Indira Gandhi was the last who visited the party office here more than 30 years ago.
What has infused confidence in the Congress leaders is the fact that unlike other Central Congress leaders, Singh did not praise Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The state Congress leaders have always alleged that they failed to launch successful anti-Naveen campaign because of the support he derived from the party’s Central leaders.
But the prime minister did not mince his words when the state leaders drew his attention to the campaign launched by Naveen about Central negligence of Odisha. The UPA government has all along been “supportive and sympathetic” towards Odisha and no injustice has been done to the state as alleged by the chief minister, Singh told the Congress leaders.
In a seven-page memorandum to the Prime Minister, the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) demanded a CBI probe into a series of scandals like mining scam, coal scam, dal scam, land scam and alleged corruption in key Central flagship programmes. The party also demanded extension of the CBI probe into MGNREGA to the entire state.
OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik said: “The response of the Prime Minister to all our demands was positive. He could not make some announcements because of the panchayat polls. But he has asked me to go with a delegation of Congress leaders to New Delhi after the panchayat polls to discuss state issues with him.”
Former minister Narasingh Mishra who demanded CBI probe into the mining scam said that the attitude of the Prime Minister was positive. “The prime minister seems to have given importance to what we had to say,” he added.
To party leaders’ allegation against the Naveen government about misuse and diversion of Central funds, the Prime Minister said he was aware of everything happening in the state. What has boosted the morale of the state leadership is the confidence Singh reposed on them by asking them to monitor proper implementation of certain flagship programmes like PMGSY and MGNREGA. Singh spent 40 minutes with the Congress leaders though his schedule was for 15 minutes only.