Ahead of the first phase of the three-tier panchayat polls on February 13, opposition BJP and ruling BJD sparred over the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh alleging that the regional party was raising the issue to divert attention from core issues like hunger death and migration. “People of Odisha wanted answers on growing unemployment, migration, hunger deaths, poor health facilities and others. Unable to reply to the people, attempts are made to raise Mahanadi water issue in order to divert attention,” Singh today told a public rally in support of BJP candidates at Lathikata in Sundargarh district bordering Chhattisgarh.
Highlighting the success of his government, the Chhattisgarh CM said panchayat elections will decide the course of the next general elections in 2019. Promising a better future for people in Odisha, Singh said the local people too can avail the facilities being given to people in Chhattisgarh, if they bring BJP to power.
“Chhattisgarh is now a migration-free state. He said though Chhattisgarh has tribal and dalit population at 44 per cent, his government has made schemes for welfare of farmers, youths, girl child, women and elders which can also be implemented in Odisha. If the Chhattisgarh government can provide agriculture loan to farmers at the zero interest rate, why can’t Odisha government.” he said, adding that schemes cannot be successfully implemented unless there is a strong will to progress.
Singh said Mahanadi flows 350 kilometres in Chhattisgarh but the State uses only 4 per cent of water. “Odisha uses 14 per cent of Mahanadi water. Remaining 82 per cent drains down to sea. Hirakud reservoir could be filled four times if Odisha government taps the water draning into sea. But BJD is using Mahanadi water issue just for the ongoing panchayat elections,” he alleged.
While Singh addressed 5 public meetings in Bolangir, Jharsuguda and Sundergarh, Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das today campaigned in Mayurbhanj district, neighbouring Jharkhand. Union ministers Jual Oram, Dharmendra Pradhan and Ram Kripal Yadav too campaigned.
In contrast to the high-voltage campaign by BJP, chief minister Naveen Patnaik did not address any public meetings and and held hold roadshows in Ganjam district only. Naveen who had attended at least 50 public meetings during the panchayat elections in 2012, concentrated in his own constituency in Ganjam apparently in view of failing health.