Taking cue from BJP’s recent defeat in 3 states, BJD is concentrating on development schemes to impress voters.
Bhubaneswar: In the wake of BJP’s defeat in three major Hindi heartland states, which many attributed to growing farm distress and disenchantment of tribals and dalits, the ruling BJD in Odisha is contemplating on execution of a host of programmes for consolidation of its vote banks to win a straight fifth consecutive term.
On the other hand, the Congress and BJP, two major rivals of the ruling BJD, are in no mood to let the latter walk away the fifth consecutive victory. And, these two parties have launched systematic campaign to bring the farmers, tribals and dalits to their respective sides to win the 2019 assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
Faced with the strong demand for waiver of farm loans, the cash-strapped Odisha government is trying to roll out some doles for the peasant communities by extracting special financial assistances from the Union government.
The performance of the Naveen Patnaik government in revenue generation has been far from satisfactory. Its tax and non-tax revenue collection in 2017-18 stood at 36,729 crore.
In this context, for the state government that presented a budget of `1.20 lakh crore for 2018-19 fiscal, it would be a herculean task to waive farm loans.
According to an estimate, the state exchequer would have to cough up nearly `20,000 crore it goes up for farm loan waiver. Growing debt burden of the state also stands as a major deterrent for the government.
When the present BJD came to power in the state for the first in 2000, the state’s debt burden stood at `18,100 crore (1999-2000 fiscal). Now, it has jumped to `91,943 crore.
With its limited resources, the state government has banked upon giving away mobile phones to farmers and extending healthcare benefits to them through Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana that assures up to `5 lakh health insurance coverage.
Earlier this year, in an apparent bid to woo the tribals, the BJD government had launched special development councils for nine tribal-dominated districts such as Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur are the nine districts which will have the councils. In these districts tribals form around 50 per cent of the population. Odisha has 62 indigenous tribes.
According to the 2011 census, scheduled castes constitute 22.85 per cent of state’s 4.19 crore population. The state has 17.13 per cent scheduled tribe population.
The BJP, in order to not to give any opportunity to the BJD walk away with tribal votes, has planned a two-day national tribal meet in February 2 and 3, 2019. Party’s national president Amit Shah is likely to address the gathering.
The Congress, which has already brought the state’s leading tribal face and Samata Kranti Dal leader George Tirkey into its fold early this year, has made Pradeep Majhi, another tribal leader of southern Odisha, its working president. Mr Majhi has been spearheading the party’s public contact programmes across the state.
Realising that the Opposition parties are trying to match its every move aimed at winning hearts of the SC and ST people, the BJD of late has started refocusing on women. It has announced to provide six lakh smart-phones to women self-help groups functioning under the Mission Shakti programme. The BJD strategists believe that nearly 60 lakh members of the women self-help groups, like previous elections, would stand rock solid this time also.
In yet another move to consolidate its women vote bank, the ruling BJD in the recently concluded winter session of the Assembly got a resolution passed declaring party’s commitment for 33 per cent reservation for females in Parliament and state legislature. Add to this, to create youth cadre the BJD has recently raised Biju Yuba Vahini in which four lakh youths in the age group of 15 to 35 have been enrolled.
During his current fourth term, the Odisha CM is making optimum use of technology to reach out to the masses. He speaks to the targeted people through video conferencing and approves project worth `10 lakh. This tactic, as analysts point out, has helped the Odisha CM retain his hold among the common people.
The BJP and the Congress have in similar exercises activated their information technology cell so as to give no room to the BJD to have an upper hand them.
The 2017 rural polls saw the Congress, which was until then second major power after the ruling BJD, — finishing third with only 60 Zilla Parishad seats. On the other hand, the BJD and the BJP got 473 and 297 seats, respectively. Now, it appears that the BJP which had got 18 per cent votes in 2014 assembly polls is also steadily eating into the vote banks of the BJD.