BJD govt’s attempt to showcase good governance countered by BJP, Cong with charges of farm distress, scams.
Bhubaneswar: Facing allegations governance failure, Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik has, of late, relied on the “cooperation” of his industrialist friends for an image makeover before going to the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
Mr Patnaik who organised the second edition of the “Make in Odisha” conclave in the state capital from November 11 to 15 did his best to invite the industry tycoons and extract huge investment promises from them.
His intention, apparently, was to send a message to political opponents as well as common people that he still enjoys the trust of the business community due to his “stable” and “transparent” administration and, hence, deserved to get people’s mandate for the fifth consecutive term.
The conclave witnessed attendance of more than a dozen industry captains, including Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran, Vedanta Resources chairman Anil Agarwal, JSW chairman Sajjan Jindal and JSPL chief Naveen Jindal.
All these leaders, ostensibly at the insistence of the state government, praised the industrialisation efforts of the Odisha government led by chief minister Patnaik and called upon the “budding” industrialists present at the conclave to invest in Odisha.
Journalists from across the country were invited to give a wide coverage to the event, claimed to be the biggest-ever organised by any state.
The first edition of Make in Odisha held in 2016 had fetched Rs 2.03 lakh crore investment intents. And, this time around, the government expected from Rs 2.5 lakh crore to Rs 3 lakh crore.
What is interesting is that the state government did not invite two of the Union ministers from the state - tribal affairs minister Jual Oram and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan - to the event, fearing that they might steal the show.
State industry minister Ananta Das proffered the reason for not inviting the Union ministers. He said the Union ministers were not invited as the local BJP unit opposed the Naveen Patnaik government and the presence of the two ministers at the conclave might have created an uneasy atmosphere.
Political analysts, however, did not buy the statement of the industry minister. They interpreted the move as a calculated strategy not to share the credit of success of the conclave with the BJP that has emerged, since the 2017 rural polls, as its principal contender and eyeing power in the state in 2019.
Before the conclave, the BJD, formed in 1997 against the backdrop of alleged “perennial” Central neglect to Odisha, had hyped the Union government’s “non-cooperation”. The party also alleged a deliberate attempt by the BJP to fan people’s sentiment against it.
The conclave, as meticulously planned, went on smoothly with the state mopping up investment promises of over Rs 4.19 lakh crore, giving an opportunity to the BJD to show to the world that despite the BJP’s allegation of “governance failure” in the state the government exceeded the projected volume of investment intents.
“We got what we expected from the conclave. This astounding success shows that the investors have strong faith in our government and leadership despite the BJP’s vilification drive against us. In the coming 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, we are quite sure the people will shower similar blessings on us,” said industry minister Ananta Das.
Before the BJD could claim credit for the success of the conclave, the saffron party, which dubbed the event a “political stunt”, came out with its own figures of contribution to mirror the Central government’s intention to boost investment in the state.
The BJP shared with media the investment intents made by Central public sector units which amounted to nearly Rs 1.50 lakh crore, literally stealing the thunder from the ruling party’s boisterous talk on the success of the conclave.
The BJD government is now concentrating on another mega event, Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup beginning on November 28 to project Mr Patnaik as the “tallest” and “efficient” leader of the country.
However, the Opposition BJP and Congress have started raking up three major issues: farmers’ distress, chit fund scam and the alleged mismanagement of Brahma Parivartan rituals of Lord Jagannath in 2015. The 2015 ritual involved a ceremonial change of bodies for the three deities of the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri.
These issues, the Opposition believes, would deprive the BJD of the opportunity to redraft its publicity strategy to regain its “fast eroding” support base.