Op-Ed: Reading the Ray googly!

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Former union minister, Dilip Ray had quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and also his membership of the state assembly from Rourkela a few months ago apparently angry over the non-fulfilment of the two promises Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had made to the people of Odisha’s steel city during the 2014 elections.

The first promise was a second bridge over river Brahmani at the city’s entry point. It has been a long standing demand with the old bridge now in a precarious condition, worn out by the constant movement of heavy vehicles over the years.

The second assurance was about converting the city’s Ispat General Hospital (IGH) into a medical college and super-speciality hospital. This, too, is a genuine demand considering that IGH being one of the oldest hospitals in the state needs to be upgraded and also deserves to be converted into a medical college and hospital which the city lacks.

These two issues had been simmering for quite sometime with Ray, an experienced politician and businessman, sending repeated reminders to the BJP leadership and the concerned central ministries. He argued that these being promises made by the Prime Minister himself they must be carried out with alacrity in the larger interest of BJP. Their non-fulfilment was bound to show the party and even the Prime Minister in a poor light.

For Ray it was a personal loss of face for he happened to be the local MLA and, thus, supposed to both reflect and represent the aspirations of the people of Rourkela. So it pained him when the work on these projects did not move and finally he decided to put in his papers.

It is in this backdrop that one needs to analyse Ray’s latest moves which have surprised even his close followers both in the steel city and outside. Soon after the elections were announced there were reports in the media that the former union minister had visited the Naveen Nivas for a meeting with his friend-turned-foe, chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. There was also speculation that he might join the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and take field as its Lok Sabha candidate from Kendrapara.

Nothing of the kind actually happened. But what happened a few days later left even his ardent supporters looking for answers. Ray came out with a statement expressing his gratitude to the Prime Minister for finally taking steps to expedite these two projects. Though the former Rourkela MLA appears convinced about the sincerity of the central government on the issue this time the people of the city do not share his feelings.

For them nothing much has changed as far as the progress on these projects is concerned. “ There is nothing on the ground to convince us that the work will really be expedited. For us the situation remains the same. The statement of our former MLA is rather surprising,” was one reaction.

There are many interpretations of the sudden change in Ray’s stand on the issue, one of these being that it was manoeuvred by the top BJP leadership to help union minister, Jual Oram who is contesting the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat of which Rourkela is a part. Yet another explanation being offered is that Ray is angling to get back into the BJP but he wants it to look honourable.

This version, according to some sources, has received strength following Ray’s visit to Patkura for a meeting with his old friend, Bijay Mohapatra who, like him had snapped ties with the BJP after a tense relationship, but is now back in the party and contesting the assembly election on its ticket. Strange are the ways of politicians!

(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)