statesman news service
NEW DELHI, 12 JUNE: The Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader, Mr Naveen Patnaik (sns photo), brought his state’s fight for special status to the national capital today and accused the Centre of pursuing a policy of political discrimination in grant of assistance.
Mr Patnaik’s move seems to be not only aimed at strengthening his party’s position in Odisha politics but also signals his desire to carve a place for himself on the national political landscape. In the wake of Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee proposing a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front, this gains greater significance.
Hitting out at the Centre for neglecting Odisha’s interests at a Swabhiman rally held at Ramlila Maidan here, Mr Patnaik pitched for special category status to his state on the lines of the demand raised by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who had organised a similar rally in Delhi in March.
“It has been a very long standing demand of Odisha. Historically, Odisha has been neglected by the Central governments. We give vast revenues to the Railways but we hardly get any Railways allocation in return,” said Mr Patnaik.
Accusing the Centre of being discriminatory towards his state even during natural calamities, Mr Patnaik said: “Such massive injustice and neglect can never be tolerated.”
He also accused the Centre of granting funds to other states but not Odisha, saying: “The UPA government is following different policies in different states. The selfish interest of the party (Congress) has become the sole criteria of central assistance.” He said the just demand of states like Odisha which fulfil all criteria required for special status are being ignored.
Seeking to strike a chord with the crowd, Mr Patnaik spoke in his mother tongue, Odia, though he was reading out a written speech. Mr Patnaik said the nation cannot move forward by denying even one state its rightful claim, but successive governments at the Centre have ignored Odisha’s demand for justice.
“The Central government has been giving funds to different states on political considerations. Should the money paid by crores of tax payers of the country be used for a narrow interest of a political party?” he asked.
The demand for special status “shall continue till we achieve our just demand” because it concerns “Odia dignity” and the aspirations of the four crore people of the state, he said.
Mr Patnaik referred to the low rail network penetration in the state and the alleged indifference of the Centre towards the poor and tribals living in and around mining areas to buttress his claim of neglect. He also sought to know why a state should be deprived of its rights when it is trying its level