It’s Naveen vs Modi in Bijepur
Villagers of Bandhapali sit near kutcha house
Bijepur: BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is facing an undercurrent of support for the BJP in his second Assembly constituency Bijepur.
BJP’s Sanat Kumar Gartia is making his debut here in electoral politics while the Congress has fielded former minister Ripunath Seth. Both are trying their best to beat brand Naveen in Bijepur.
For the first time Patnaik is contesting from Bijepur in addition to his home turf, Hinjili in Ganjam district, to check the undercurrent of support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bijepur, a strong base of the Congress till the death of former MLA Subala Sahu, is now with the BJD. The BJD won the seat with a margin of around 40,000 votes in the by-election held last year.
The Congress has somehow been pushed back by the BJP here. The saffron party aims to form the government with more than 120 seats in the 147-seat Assembly.
Unlike during the by-election held last year, Bijepur voters are showing enthusiasm for the Chief Minister, who had chosen their constituency to contest to the 16th Assembly.
The affection for Patnaik is reflected among the people. “Naveen has given us rice at Re 1-a-kg, old age pension and solar lanterns. I have nothing against him. I don’t know whether these things will continue if another party comes to power,” said Ganesh Meher, 62.
Patnaik will campaign in the constituency for the first and last time Tuesday. Many senior BJD leaders including Sushant Singh, Anup Sai and Jitu Patnaik are also working for Patnaik here. The party’s vice-president and MP candidate from Bargarh, Prasanna Acharya, is also addressing public meetings.
Although brand Naveen is helping the BJD a lot in this constituency, the lack of irrigation facilities, non-disbursal of KALIA funds and drinking water problem are bothering the people. There is also a Modi craze among the youths.
The BJP has fielded a new face here and is leaving no stone unturned to grab the seat. While Modi visited Bargarh in January, BJP president Amit Shah addressed a public meeting recently. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, the party’s state in-charge Arun Singh and the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate Suresh Pujari are also campaigning for the party here.
Congress candidate Seth, who is having a presence in Barapali, is also trying hard to win the seat. He was not in electoral politics for 15 years. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi visited the district in March. After that no Congress heavyweight has come here. Seth and his supporters are campaigning throughout the constituency.
Weavers, farmers face problems
Although weavers and farmers have a strong presence in this constituency, it seems that political leaders are least bothered about them.
While there is no one to help weavers, the lack of adequate irrigation facilities is hitting the farmers hard. The ‘pucca house for all’ and free LPG cylinder scheme have not reached everyone here.
Nearly 70 per cent of the households are that of weavers in the Bandhapali village of Barapali block. The weavers get around Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 a month, and do not have direct access to the market.
The imposition of GST by the Modi government has increased their problems. The BJD government’s ‘pucca house for all’ has also not reached here and many villagers don’t have a pucca house.
Adhikari Meher, a weaver said, “We are getting subsidised rice, but we have not got pucca house and LPG connection. Our village doesn’t have a black topped road too.”
The weavers hope that things may change if the Chief Minister represents their constituency in the Assembly.
The story of farmers here is also similar. The farmers usually cultivate paddy and vegetables while a few grow flowers. Due to lack of adequate irrigation facilities, the farmers faced a drought recently. Besides, suicides by farmers have been reported from this area.
In 2017, the BJD government had approved the Gangadhar Meher Lift Canal project to provide irrigation to the rain-fed and drought prone 25,000 hectares in Bijepur, Sohela and Barpalli in Bargarh district.
The plan was to draw water from the Hirakud Dam through the Bargarh main canal and complete the Rs 1,246 crore project in five years. But work on the project has not started.
Most farmers in Barapali and Gaisilet blocks have drilled deep bore wells to irrigate crops. They are waiting for the Gangadhar Meher Lift Irrigation Project.
Jalandhar Patel, a farmer of Samaleipadar village, said, “I am cultivating marigold flowers as I get good returns. I drilled a bore well to irrigate my farm. If the lift irrigation project is executed it will help me immensely.” Patel said he had got the first installment money under the KALIA scheme.