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Naveen Patnaik hits poll trail in Padampur, his first physical campaign in three years

CM Naveen Patnaik, who is president of the ruling BJD, addressed three rallies at Jharbandh, Paikmal and Padampur in front of sizable crowds, seeking votes for party candidate Barsha Singh Bariha.

Party candidate Barsha Singh Bariha with Chief Minister. Naveen Patnaik (Twitter/@Naveen_Odisha)

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Friday hit the campaign trail — for the first time in three years — for the December 5 Padampur bypoll, promising to fight from “Palli ru Delhi” (from village to the national capital) for the cause of farmers and kendu leaf workers, whose numbers are significant in the constituency.

Patnaik, who is president of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), addressed three rallies at Jharbandh, Paikmal and Padampur in front of sizable crowds, seeking votes for party candidate Barsha Singh Bariha. He accused the BJP of “shedding crocodile tears” on the issues of farmers, higher GST and rail connectivity to the constituency.

“The Centre’s BJP government is levying 18 per cent GST on kendu leaves. Do you know the GST on gold? It’s only 3 per cent. The BJP workers will not raise their voice against this injustice,” said Patnaik.

Patnaik had last campaigned physically for the Bijepur bypoll in October 2019 for Rita Sahu. She won by a record margin of 97,990 votes. Though five by-elections were held since then, the Chief Minister had confined himself to virtual campaigning.

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His entry in the Padampur fray is a marker of the significance the battle holds for the ruling party, which will seek a sixth straight term in the Assembly polls of 2024.

While Bariha was present on the dais in all three rallies, senior BJD leaders were also seen sharing the stage with the Chief Minister, which was not very common in the ruling party for the past few years. Many local elected leaders were also allowed on the dais to submit a memorandum to the Chief Minister.

Patnaik also invoked Nrusinghanath, the presiding deity of the region, and celebrated poet Gangadhar Meher, who hailed from it.

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Taking on the Centre for not settling the farmers’ claims under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, a key issue that dominated the poll narrative in the agrarian-rich constituency, Patnaik said the BJP-led Union government woke up from its slumber after the agitating farmers stopped the BJP candidate (Pradip Purohit) from filing his nomination and cleared dues pending for 18 months in just 48 hours.

Ridiculing the Centre on its promise of rail connectivity to Padampur, he asked whether BJP even knew where the railway station is located in Padampur.

Patnaik also raised central neglect on issues like distribution of ST scholarship, inclusion of 169 communities of Odisha to ST list and allocation of houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. He also announced a plan to spend at least Rs 1 crore in every panchayat of Padampur to accelerate development and to visit the constituency with a report card on development before 2024.

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The BJD also accused Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan of encouraging a woman journalist to hit Odisha’s agriculture minister Ranendra Pratap Swain during his campaign in Padampur bypoll and demanded “suitable action” against him. The regional party submitted a memorandum to the chief electoral officer in this regard.

First published on: 02-12-2022 at 21:19 IST
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