Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

On the pretext of student scholarships, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is allegedly doing vote bank politics by targeting young voters to vote for it in the upcoming General Elections.

As per reports, BJD is allegedly seeking votes through phone calls to students, who have been provided scholarships. Recently, several students got phone calls and were allegedly asked to vote for the BJD Lok Sabha candidate from Cuttack, Santrupta Mishra. Moreover, students were allegedly explained through the phone call that as the BJD government has provided them with the scholarship, they should vote for the party.

Students disturbed over phone calls

Take the case of Siddhartha Prusty, a Plus-3 student from Goutam Nagar area in the Rayagada district who received such calls twice on April 15 and 22. Bhabani Pradhan, a student from Vikram Dev University in Jeypore, has also got similar phone calls.

As per sources, the students are even lured with more such scholarships if they vote BJD to power again.

Odisha government has provided Rs 9,000 and Rs 10,000 to boys and girl students, respectively under the Nua-O scholarship scheme two months back.

"I had got two phone calls to vote for the BJD. They asked about my experience regarding the Nua-O scholarship and urged me to vote for the BJD to get more benefits," said Bhabani.

"I got phone calls twice on April 15 and 22 and was urged to vote for BJD in the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. However, we will only vote for proper candidates," said Siddhartha.

"I am disturbed after getting a phone call to vote for the BJD. Exercising our franchise is our fundamental right. Did the government give us scholarships to vote for them?" asked Pratap Khara, a Plus-3 student from Laxmipur.

Question mark over intention of Govt

Now questions are being raised over the intention of the government in providing scholarships to the students. People have expressed apprehension about whether it was meant to buy the young voters. These kinds of phone calls before the first phase of the General Elections have further intensified doubts.

Was it a lure to attract young voters ahead of the 2024 General Elections? As there are 7,54,000 young voters in Odisha, was the scholarship scheme a strategy to checkmate the growing popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the State? 

Opposition slams BJD

"It is a clear violation of the model election code of conduct. Nua-O was a government scheme. Now the question is, when the government provided scholarships to the students under the scheme, how did the database come to the BJD IT cell? We will complain about the matter to the Election Commission of Odisha and seek stern action against the BJD," said BJP spokesperson Anil Biswal.

"They have lured the students through the scholarship scheme to get votes. Vote should be given to the candidates who will stand with the people during all situations and problems," said Chhatra Congress President, Yasir Nawaz.

However, BJD refuted the allegations.

"If people are making others aware about the good work of the Naveen Patnaik government then it's a matter between the voters. It has nothing to do with the BJD," said BJD leader, Rabi Narayan Nanda.

Will it boomerang?

Earlier, the Odisha government had drawn flak for putting up huge posters of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to advertise their different schemes in different higher educational institutions across the State. Then they distributed the scholarship money in different cultural programmes under the Nua-O scheme. Now, it is evident from the phone calls that the BJD had the intention to garner votes. It remains to be seen whether the young voters will be attracted by the initiatives or it will boomerang.