Column: Bijepur No Cakewalk for BJD

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Opposition parties have a slew of prickly campaign issues against the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Bijepur where the canvassing for the bye-election is in full swing. The BJP, which is the main opponent of BJD in the constituency, has already made its intentions clear. It is going all out for victory and has decided to launch a frontal attack on chief minister, Naveen Patnaik and his government.

And there will be no dearth of issues for the party whose campaign is being led by none other than union minister, Dharmendra Pradhan himself. The biggest issue for the opposition, of course, is the chief minister’s decision to give up the Bijepur seat in favour of Hinjili. The BJP has sought to project it as the betrayal of the people of Bijpeur who had elected Patnaik with great hopes. Senior party leaders including Pradhan have been rubbing it in.

The embarrassment on the issue has been acute for the BJD with chief minister’s assurance of taking care of the constituency like his own unlikely to assuage the feelings of the people who have obviously been hurt by his decision. It is now clear to them that Patnaik’s decision to contest from Bijepur was nothing more than a tactical move to boost his party’s prospects in western Odisha and he never really intended to stick to it.

Then there are other issues like the backwardness of the area which is part of Bargarh district, notorious for cases of farmer suicides. Farmer suicides, in fact, constitute an irony as the district is known as the rice bowl of the state and the produces the best quality of paddy. But farmers often fall victim to the syndrome known as the problem of plenty.

It is not uncommon for them to find themselves in a situation where they have a bumper crop but there are no takers for it,  at least not at the rates demanded by farmers. The minimum support price (MSP) of paddy is never enough to satisfy them. Hence distress sale of paddy is a recurrent phenomenon in this belt.

Worse, farmers often find themselves at the receiving end of natural calamities like droughts. When droughts spare them there are pest attacks on crops. Crop failure hits farmers hard and burdened with loans they are often driven to suicide. The government has hardly initiated any measures to mitigate the situation.

The situation is being made worse by lack of irrigation facilities in parts of the district and Bijepur constituency in particular. The much talked about Gangadhar Meher irrigation project is yet to become fully functional. Small lift irrigation points in many parts of the constituency have been  struggling  to survive in the absence of regular power supply.

Then there are other issues like bad roads and the need for more schools and hospitals with adequate number of teachers and doctors. These problems will suddenly magnify as the expectation level of people has gone up since the last election when the chief minister won the seat. The ruling party will find the going tough in this by-poll.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)