Campaign for 2nd phase gains momentum in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: After voting in the first phase of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the campaigning for the second phase has gained momentum in Odisha with political parties holding rallies and road shows.

Aska, Bargarh, Bolangir, Kandhamal and Sundargarh parliamentary constituencies and 35 Assembly seat in these areas will go to the polls on April 18.

Leaders of three major political parties — the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) — are touring Assembly segments to canvass for their party candidates.

BJD President and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday held public meetings and road shows in the Kandhamal and Aska parliamentary constituencies and raised the issue of negligence by the central government.

Claiming that 40 lakh farmers benefited from the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme, Patnaik said the BJP is conspiring to stop this project. “Nobody can stop the scheme and no eligible farmer will be deprived of the benefits under it,” he said.

Patnaik, eyeing the fifth consecutive term as the Chief Minister, is contesting from two Assembly seats — Hinjili and Bijepur. Votes for both the seats will be cast in the second phase.

The BJP has also intensified campaign with an aim to oust the Patnaik government, which has been in power since the last 19 years.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have held several rallies in the state, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Odisha BJP in-charge Arun Singh campaigned in several constituencies. Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, contesting the Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat, also held rallies in his constituency.

“Patnaik must present report card and answer what he has done for Odisha in the last 19 years. Farmers don’t get benefits of Kalia scheme, while BJD MPs and MLAs are enrolled as beneficiaries under it,” alleged Pradhan.

While the central leaders, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, are yet to campaign in the state for the second phase, state Congress unit chief Niranjan Patnaik has been leading campaign.

“Odisha’s 60 per cent population is dependent on agriculture. No progress is possible if we ignore them. People have seen through the games of other parties and are ready to choose the Congress this time,” said the Congress leader.

As usual the electioneering is not devoid of the glamour quotient. While several Odia cine artists are campaigning for different political parties, Bollywood stars have also descended to do canvassing.

Suniel Shetty and Mahima Chaudhry have campaigned for BJD candidate Nabakishore Das in the Jharsuguda Assembly constituency. They visited several parts of the constituency on Friday.