Mrunal Manmay Dash

With the Panchayat polls round the corner, all political parties in Odisha are gearing up to influence the voters in every nook and corner of villages in the State.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched its ‘Jan Ashirvad Yatra’ from Thursday, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) plans to reach out to the rural voters with Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY), the smart card health scheme for the rural populace.

Following its announcement on Independence Day, BJD supremo, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will inaugurate the new scheme from the southern Odisha district of Malkangiri on Friday. He will distribute BSKY smart cards to 150 beneficiaries at the district culture centre in Malkangiri. This will be his first visit to the backward district since the COVID restrictions came into force.

No less than eight ministers including some MLAs have made their bases at Malkangiri for the CM's visit. As per reports, following Patnaik’s distribution of BSKY cards, these ministers will distribute BSKY cards to other beneficiaries till August 23, 2021.

The BJP too has galvanised all its efforts for the upcoming Panchayat polls. Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw arrived at Bhubaneswar today and went straight to Puri for the darshan of Lord Jagannath before launching the 'Jan Ashirvad Yatra' which will continue till August 22.

While Pradhan will lead BJP’s campaign in Cuttack and Khordha districts, Vaishnaw will move to Rayagada, Nabarangpur and Bolangir to garner popular support for the party.

Speaking about the Railway’s focus on Odisha, Vaishnaw said, “75 Vande Bharat Express trains will connect several cities in the country in the coming 75 weeks. One of them will connect the pilgrim town of Puri too.”

“The elections to Municipalities should be held simultaneously with the Panchayat elections,” demanded Pradhan after visiting the Srimandir in Puri.

Meanwhile, the Congress party has also devised its strategy to woo voters in rural Odisha. Senior Congress leader, Ganeswar Behera said, “The party has formed a committee to oversee the Panchayat elections. We will contest the elction over local issues.”

However, not expressing surprise over the promises made by political parties, senior journalist, Rajaram Satapathy said that the list will elongate further as the election dates near.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the much-awaited and long-overdue Panchayat elections in Odisha will be conducted on the scheduled date, informed State Panchayati Raj Minister, Pratap Jena on last Tuesday.

The Panchayatiraj department will soon furnish all details pertaining to the Panchayat elections to the State election commissioner.