Pradeep Pattanayak

In its 24-year-long rule, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) for the first time has promised in its manifesto to give free electricity to about 90 per cent of families in the state. 

The BJD has come up with such a sop this election to woo voters. Starting from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to his close aide VK Pandian to other leaders, everyone in the BJD is speaking about free electricity at election meetings. This free electricity announcement is also being widely propagated in electronic and print media. 

Ground Reality 

But when it comes to ground reality, the announcement seems to be a pie in the sky. 

Also Read: Naveen Patnaik in hostage situation; there will be no BJD after poll results: Assam CM in Odisha

Be it Soro, Niali or Jaleswar, everywhere people are critical of the electricity department. As if the sultry weather conditions and soaring temperatures were not enough, frequent undeclared power cuts in these areas have added to the woes of consumers. 

In remote areas, the problem of the families is least said the better. 

“24-hour electricity has become a distant dream for the poor like us. When we enquire about the power cut, we never get a satisfactory answer from the other end,” rued Nakula Prasad Ghadei, a resident of Soro.  

Political Debate 

Meanwhile, the free electricity announcement has kicked off debates in political corridors. 

“My house is 1.5 kilometres away from Naveen Niwas. Despite being a resident of the capital city, I am suffering from undeclared power cuts. By offering freebies, they have had votes. This time, people will give them a befitting reply,” said Samir Mohanty, senior BJP leader. 

Taking strong exception to the BJD’s announcement, senior Congress leader Tara Prasad Bahinipati said, “They should rather feel shame. You have completely failed to provide electricity where it is being generated. First, you should stop frequent undeclared power cuts. Then only people would decide if they will vote for you or not.”

BJD leader Bhrugu Buxipatra took the side of his government and said, “Regarding the announcement, the people of Odisha have no doubts at all. If the BJP and the Congress leaders have doubts, I have nothing to say.”

Infrastructure Problem 

The Odisha Electricity Consumers’ Association urged the government to improve the infrastructure first before thinking of giving free electricity. 

“What is the use of surplus power if there is no transmission line? This is the situation in Odisha. You have to improve the infrastructure, instead of leaving everything to Tata Power,” said Ramesh Satapathy, president, Odisha Electricity Consumers’ Association.

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