Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: Politics intensified over the recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in New Delhi during which the latter demanded 'special focus state' status. Citing that Odisha is hit by natural calamities frequently, CM Naveen demanded that the State may be granted benefits of a special category state for a specific period.

The demand has evoked mixed response from opposition parties, with the BJP terming it a political drama, while the Congress has questioned the timing of such demand.

Senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said "I fully agree with the demand made by Patnaik. Odisha becomes a victim of natural calamities every year. The CM has rightly placed the demand for 'special focus state' status (before the Centre)," Mishra told reporters here.

He, however, flayed the CM for not pursuing the matter during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee's term, when Patnaik was a minister in the cabinet and his party an ally of the BJP.

"Naveen Babu was once a Union minister in the NDA-led government, and the BJD was a partner of the coalition government. He should clarify why he had not raised this demand at that time," Mishra said.

Patnaik on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the states hit by major disasters as 'Special Focus States' with benefits of the special category status for a specified period.

He pointed out that the unique geo-climatic conditions of Odisha make it vulnerable to frequent natural disasters. Criticising Patnaik over his demand, the Odisha unit of BJP said the 'special focus state' tag does not exist in government parlance.

"This is another political drama by the BJD. They (BJD) were so far seeking a 'special category' status, and now they want a 'focus state' tag," BJP state general secretary, Prithviraj Harichandan said.

The ruling BJD should focus on the development of the state and ensure proper implementation of the central schemes for the benefit of the people, he insisted.

"The BJD government is demanding a status that does not really exist. It should stop blowing trumpet on the successful handling of cyclone Fani and implement the central schemes. If any irregularities are found in the implementation of the schemes, we will bring them to public notice," Harichandan added.

In response, Odisha Planning & Convergence Minister Padmanabha Behera said, “Our State is constantly hit by cyclone, flood and drought conditions and that’s why the Centre should grant the status to us. CM has requested for the approval and the people of our State would definitely want that.”

On the other hand political analysts believe that the chances of getting such a tag are very low. “There are different ways to seek approval from the Centre, but the State government has failed to do so and it doesn’t seem like it will ever happen,” said Prabhu Kalyan Mohapatra, a political analyst.

(With PTI inputs)