The Indian Railways’ decision to bifurcate the existing East Coast Railway and merge a portion of it with the newly created South Coast Railway has triggered a fresh pre-election war of words between the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and its one-time ally, the BJP.
Protesting the decision, the BJD leaders and workers staged a demonstration and dharana in front of the East Coast Railway headquarters here on Saturday.
The programme was sponsored by the youth, students and women wings of the regional outfit.
“This is another instance of the Centre’s negligence towards the state. Odisha had got the new railway zone, the East Coast Railway, after much struggle. Moreover, the state is contributing more than Rs 20,000 crore every year to the Indian Railways’ kitty. Therefore, we will not allow the bifurcation of the zone. We are going to intensify our agitation if the decision was not taken back”, the BJD general secretary Sanjay Dasburma said.
The senior legislator who led the Saturday’s agitation also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for repeatedly making statements on the development of the eastern India states.
“During his last visit, the PM had said that the development of Odisha is necessary for the overall development of eastern India. However, the Indian Railways’ latest move has proved that Mr Modi was making an empty statement which was only aimed to garner votes”, he said.
The state unit of the BJP hit back with a strongly worded reply.
“The Saturday’s agitation and statements against the Centre was only intended to hide the failure of the Naveen Patnaik-led government on various fronts”, party spokesperson Golak Mohapatra said.
The BJD and the BJP were allies in Odisha for eleven years between 1998 and 2009.
Both had parted ways on the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
Since then the Patnaik led regional outfit has been claiming to maintain an equal distance from the BJP and the Congress though there were instances of the BJD throwing its lot behind the BJP-led NDA government in New Delhi on occasions during the last couple of years.