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Mrunal Manmay Dash

The landslide victory of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the recently concluded Panchayat polls in Odisha was on account of the misuse of public money by the party for electoral gains, senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik alleged.

In an exclusive interview with OTV’s News Editor Radhamadhab Mishra, Patnaik, still smarting under the disastrous defeat of the party in the rural elections, said the BJD’s trump card was government money which was used to roll out a basketful of lucrative schemes ahead of the elections.

“The ruling Biju Janata Dal has been using abundant money from the State exchequer to unfairly gain political benefits through a basket full of schemes. This is putting them in an advantageous position,” he said.

“The money power leaves little level playing field for the Opposition, Congress in particular, in the electoral arena,” the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president observed while owning up the party’s debacle.

In fact, Patnaik went on to add, the BJD’s money might has rendered the oblivion of the Opposition in the State.

“The Opposition in Odisha has become non-existent,” he said.

He however, dodged a pointed question when asked about the party’s lacunae that resulted in the debacle in the Panchayat polls.

Instead, he tried to shift the focus by blaming a ‘nexus’ between BJD and BJP (in the State and Centre) that ensured the ruling party’s victory and rout of the Congress’ party.

Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of being hand in glove with the BJD, Patnaik said the saffron party was not doing enough to hurt BJD’s vote bank at the grassroots.

“The BJP never wanted to compete in Odisha because they have an understanding with the BJD which manifests in BJD’s all-out support for the Centre in Rajya Sabha. While the State government splurged money through schemes to lure people, the BJP provided them the covering fire by not putting enough effort in the field. It was like a fixed match. And in the end, the Congress was the loser,” said Patnaik.

On the contrary, he said, “We (Congress) have been left to fight the battle on our own only with our past goodwill.”

The veteran Congressman however, hoped that the change will come when people understand the ploy of the State government. “People will call the bluff when they come to know that the money which the State government has been giving to them is not meant for their development, but to lure them into voting for BJD,” Patnaik said.

Out of the 851 Zilla Parishad zones went into polls in the recently concluded three tier Panchayat elections, the Congress party managed to win only 37 seats while the BJD has won 765 seats.

Worthwhile to mention here that the BJP did not perform any better either and managed to win just 42 ZP zones in the State.

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