A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday accused the BJP of shedding “crocodile tears” on the Mahanadi water dispute while addressing a massive public meeting on Mahanadi Suraksha, organised by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Jagatsinghpur district.
Thanking the people for supporting the BJD’s Jansachetana Yatra (public awareness campaign) on shortage of water in the Mahanadi, Patnaik said that the political movement on the water dispute has now turned into a people’s movement.
“The silence of the BJP government at the Centre is sad. BJP leaders from Odisha support Chhattisgarh, yet shed crocodile tears (for Odisha),” he said.
Odisha is opposing construction on upstream Mahanadi by the BJP government in Chhattisgarh, claiming that the projects are disrupting flow of water in the river. The BJP’s stand is that the BJD should approach the Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal if it has any grievances and should not politicise the issue.
Patnaik said the BJD is not just fighting for water but “for life of the Mahanadi”. He said, “Crores of Odiya people depend on the river for their livelihood. We will respond to this attack on their lives.”
The BJP, expected to be the BJD’s main opponent in next year’s state elections, hit back at Patnaik. Calling the chief minister “double-faced”, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “He is the chief minister and also the party (BJD) supremo. As CM, he had declared in the Assembly in December that Odisha was receiving its fair share of water, and in fact (was) unable to conserve 53 per cent of Mahanadi water that drains into the sea.”
But, Patra said, “now, as party supremo, he says the problem needs a solution and Modi is not thinking about it. Is this not double-faced?”
The BJD had launched the Jansachetana Yatra on May 16, with Jharsuguda and Bargarh districts, two points where the Mahanadi enters Odisha from Chhattisgarh, as key focus areas. The yatra has already covered 15 riparian districts, including Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Boudh, Angul, Dhenkanal, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Khordha, Jajpur, Kendrapara and Puri.
According to a senior BJD leader, “This yatra has passed through 47 Assembly constituencies. Naveen Patnaik has launched his campaign for the 2019 elections”.
Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to address a public meeting in Cuttack on Saturday. Ahead of the visit, the state unit of the BJP is inviting people for the rally with a traditional Odiya gesture — it is issuing verbal invitations with a fistful of rice grain and a pinch of turmeric.
Odisha BJP has announced that Modi plans to celebrate the fourth anniversary of his government at the Centre in Odisha.