It's time of rally politics in Orissa

The politics of rallies is expected to continue as the Naveen Patnaik-led regional outfit has announced similar public gatherings in different towns and district headquarters in the coming days.

Interestingly, it was not the BJD but the Congress which had flagged off the ongoing rally politics by holding a victory rally at Lanjigarh at the foothills of Niyamgiri hills soon after the Centre stopped the Vedanta mining project. The rally was attended by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress’ rally prompted the BJD to hold a similar rally at the same spot in Lanjigarh just a week later where ministers in the Patnaik administration lashed out at the Congress and the UPA for its decision to halt the Vedanta project.

PCC chief election

The Congress is yet to plan its second rally — perhaps because the party leaders’ engagement in the election process for the post of new PCC chief. However, the BJD has already gone ahead with its second rally at Malkangiri on Sept 12.

The BJD chose Malkangiri because of the ongoing controversy over the Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh which has threatened to submerge a number of villages in the tribal dominated Orissa district. Malkangiri is also known as the number one naxal infested district in the state.

“The Union environment ministry halted the Vedanta project on the grounds of violation of law. But the same environment ministry did not hesitate to give its green signal to Polavaram project though similar law violation had already been detected. Moreover, the Centre gave its nod to the irrigation project at a time when a case on the issue is still pending before the supreme court. The move clearly exposes the Union government’s double standards”, said state revenue minister Surya Narayan Patra.

What provided fodder to the BJD leaders to lash out at the Centre is a letter from Congress president Sonia Gandhi to the Andhra Pradesh chief minister K Rosaiah just a few days before the BJD rally assuring that the Polavaram project will be accorded the status of a national project.

The BJD’s next stop was at Jagatsinghpur where the party’s held its third ‘save Orissa’ rally on Sept 18 to highlight the hurdles created by the Centre to the 10 million tonne steel project of the South Korean major Posco. Jagatsinghpur is the site of the prestigious project which has been hanging in balance for more than five years now.
If sources in the BJD are to be believed, the party is now planning similar rallies in more districts in the state before holding a ‘maha-rally’ in Bhubaneswar. It is likely to invite leaders of other ‘like-minded’ anti-Congress parties from different states to attend the maha-rally.

The BJD’s rally politics has been strongly criticised by the Congress. “These rallies are nothing but an attempt by the BJD to misguide people and hide its own failures and mistakes”, said leader of opposition in the Assembly, Bhupinder Singh.

In this context, the Congress leaders give the example of Polavaram irrigation project, currently a hot favourite subject of the BJD leaders. According to them, in February, AP chief minister Rosaiah had invited his Orissa counterpart to have a dialogue to settle all the outstanding issues between the two states including Polavaram. However, Patnaik had chosen not to respond to the Andhra CM’s invitation. The copy of the Rosaiah’s letter was recently front paged by local newspapers.

The state unit of the Congress on its part is also planning to hold ‘padyatras’ in all district headquarters towns to highlight the failures of the Patnaik government in order to counter the BJD’s ‘save Orissa’ rallies.

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