Marking end of BJP-BJD bonhomie, Amit Shah tears into Naveen Patnaik — ‘You gave him 20 yrs, give us 5’

New Delhi: Kicking off Bharatiya Janata Party’s election campaign from western Odisha’s Sonepur Thursday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah launched a blistering attack on Biju Janata Dal head and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, holding him responsible for depriving Odisha’s people of development and benefits of central government’s key schemes. He also accused the CM of lowering the dignity of the religious city of Puri in the name of tourism.

“The government that is in power here has not only kept Odisha away from development and indulged in corruption through its officers, they have also kept you (Odias) away from taking pride in the Odia language and literature,” Shah said.

He further said that the Modi government has been providing Rs 5 lakh health insurance for the poor under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, but Odisha residents have not received any benefits. “Naveen babu thinks if Ayushman Bharat is launched in Odisha, Modi will become more popular,” the BJP leader said, adding that people in the state have been losing out on the benefits of several other welfare programmes launched by the Centre.


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He alleged that the BJD government is appropriating these schemes and using Patnaik’s picture to mislead people. “…But Odias know that the five kilo rice every month comes from Modi’s government,” he said.

Sonepur is one of the seven assembly segments under the Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency. BJP’s Sangeeta Singh Deo had won the seat in 2019 by a margin of 19,516 votes.

Shah’s tirade comes against the backdrop of a general perception of bonhomie between the BJD and central BJP leadership, and talks of a possible alliance between the two in the run-up to the elections.

Since 2014, BJD had supported the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government during the passage of several crucial bills in the Parliament, including Triple Talaq and abrogation of Article 370. 

Besides, both home minister and PM Modi have previously praised Patnaik. In August last year, Shah had applauded him for becoming the CM five times in a row. The home minister’s comments had come soon after BJD had announced that it will not support the no-confidence motion against the NDA government. In December, the PM had also made positive remarks about Patnaik, adding to confusion among BJP’s party workers.

In Thursday’s rally in Odisha’s Sonepur, Shah also accused Patnaik of trying to damage the pride of the temple town of Puri to promote tourism. Soon after coming to power for a fifth term in 2019, the Naveen Patnaik government had announced plans to undertake beautification of the historic Jagannath temple in Puri and build a heritage corridor around it.

Patnaik inaugurated the corridor, just days ahead of the consecration of Ram temple in January. Shah alleged that the Patnaik government had done it to divert attention from the Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha.

The home minister also spoke about how it was the Modi government that abrogated Article 370, carried out surgical strikes in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and got the Ram temple built. He urged the people to vote for BJP to ensure that the party wins 20 of the 21 seats.

Shah also blamed the BJD government’s policies for the high rates of migration out of the state. Asking people to vote for BJP, both at the Centre and in Odisha, Shah said that if the party comes to power in the state, it will set up a textile mill, fisheries college and agro-based industries in the state to arrest large-scale migration.

“Odisha has rich mineral resources, water resources, yet the state is not prosperous… You have given Naveen Patnaik 20 years, give us 5 years and we will make Odisha the number one state of India,” he said.

Odisha is gearing up for Lok Sabha elections and state assembly polls simultaneously in four phases, starting May 13.

The state is set to witness a tough contest this time. While BJD is trying to overcome anti-incumbency in its quest for power for the sixth time, BJP has also expanded its base in the state. From winning one seat in the 2014 general elections, the party increased its tally to 8 in 2019. BJP improved its assembly tally, too — from 10 seats in 2014 to 23 in 2019.

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