Prime Minister Narendra Modi does it again. In the last 4-years, PM Modi has been effusive in extolling Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as many as three times.
But the admiration for CM Patnaik on Tuesday on the floor of the Upper House comes at a time when the BJD and BJP are at daggers drawn on the rural landscape - as the parties are the main contenders in the ensuing Panchayat polls - has come in as a surprise to political observers back in the State.
As per the observers, an extol right from PM Modi at this crucial juncture, when the State BJP is having an all-out war against the ruling BJD led by CM Naveen Patnaik for what they called the dispensation a 'failed administration' and delivering 'poor governance' that has acerbated the sufferings in the rural land of the State, could prove a booster dose for the BJD.
Is It A Political Harakiri?
A rewind shows that PM Modi had praised CM Patnaik on May 7, 2019 - the first after a bitterly fought election only a month before (Results were not declared then).
PM Modi was in Odisha in the aftermath of ESCS Fani battering the State. Post carrying out an aerial survey, the Prime Minister with Patnaik in tow, said: “Naveen babu ne bohat acha plan kiya (for evacuating 12 lakh people), Bharat sarkar usmein unke saath reh karke sari cheezon ko aage badha payegi."
However, on that day addressing a rally at Tamluk in West Bengal, PM Modi had said, "I just came from Odisha after reviewing the post-cyclone situation. I wanted to speak to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the phone. I called her but Didi is so arrogant that she didn’t speak to me. I waited for her to call, but she didn’t get back to me.”
Then PM Modi said, “Speedbreaker Didi is doing politics. I wanted to speak to the state officials but the state government did not let that take place."
It was on March 18, 2020, when CM Patnaik tweeted "I have registered my sister’s details in the Government portal for persons coming from abroad. I appeal to all of you to also register details about your family members and friends coming from abroad. This will help protect Odisha from CoronaVirus."
Quoting the tweet, PM Modi said, "Setting a great example, Chief Minister! I hope others also emulate Naveen Babu. We all can do our bit in preventing the spread of COVID-19."
On Feb 8, 2022, replying to the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address in Rajya Sabha, while speaking on cooperative federalism, PM Modi said, "A significant increase in revenue has been seen following the reforms in the sector of coal mining. The revenues have increased to Rs 35,000 crore from Rs 14,000 crore in just a year's time. The auction revenue went to the State's kitty. From the mining revenue, District Mineral Fund (DMF) was created. The money realised has benefitted the states. When states grow, the growth will accrue to Centre's growth. This is what cooperative federalism is."
In the same vein, PM Modi then added, "Odisha has been in the forefront in implementing the reforms and conducting auctions. Therefore, I congratulate Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for working shoulder to shoulder with the Centre.”
A careful study of the above extols underlines one common point - unlike others, PM Modi praised CM Naveen Patnaik's inclination to work in tandem with the Centre in implementing the policy imperatives - be it Cyclone restoration or the reform agenda.
Political observers are of the view that the Prime Minister could have avoided referring to CM Patnaik on Tuesday. But he didn't. However, they don't see it as political hara-kiri but as a political strategy.
Is It A Political Strategy?
At a time when the ruling BJD has been going to villages crying Central neglect to Odisha, in a clever way PM Modi, who has been BJP's Ace card, without jumping to campaigning arena has spread the word that Odisha has faithfully implemented Centre's mining sector reforms, and, as a consequence, reaped a rich haul of revenue from mine auctions, besides collecting another huge amount from coal royalty for the DMF.
The data with Union Mines Ministry reveals that Odisha has collected a massive Rs 13,336 crore (Rs 3066 from coal and lignite, Rs 10,224 cr from other major minerals and Rs 65 cr from minor minerals) for the DMF.
The DMF that is set up in 30 districts in Odisha has from this fund sanctioned a whopping 21,092 projects. And a majority of projects cater to physical infrastructure and drinking water in mine-rich districts.
Moreover, the data further added that around Rs 100cr has been sanctioned for Covid-19 related expenditure.
As per observers, by citing Odisha's case, PM Modi delivered the message to voters here that the flurry of development in the region has a Central hand.
"The reply of PM in Lok Sabha earlier had also very precisely mentioned states like UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab - where elections are held currently - while throwing a barb at AAP-ruled Delhi for driving out migrants to the above states fuelling the First Wave spread in the states."