Denial to accord special status to Odisha by Congress-led UPA government was made a major issue by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo and Chief Minister (CM) Naveen Patnaik of his campaign for byelection for Umerkote assembly constituency in Nabarangpur district on Friday.

Campaign is in its last phases for this byelection for which polling would be held on November 30. Mr. Patnaik attended two public meetings at Umerkote and Raighar on Friday to campaign for his party candidate Subash Gond. During his speeches in both these campaign meetings he took up the issue of denial of special status to Odisha to hit out at the national parties like the Congress and the BJP for their alleged step-motherly attitude towards the State.

Mr. Patnaik said that since long his party was demanding the Centre to grant special status to Odisha for its development to which neither the Congress-led UPA nor the former BJP-led NDA government paid any heed. He used the issue as a double-edged weapon to hit out at the two political rivals of the party in this byelection. It is a triangular fight in this constituency between the BJD, the BJP and the Congress. It may be noted that the BJD was a ruling ally of the BJP till 2009 Assembly polls.

The Chief Minister had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterating his demand to accord special status to the State. In a written reply in the Lower House of the Parliament, Union Minister of State for planning Ashwani Kumar had said on Wednesday that requests for special category status from Odisha, Rajasthan and Goa have not been found feasible, while a similar proposal from Bihar was under examination. Mr Patnaik said during the BJP-led NDA government this request had faced a similar fate.

He criticised the Congress-led UPA government for the current price rise. Mr. Patnaik air-dashed to the Umerkote constituency by helicopter. He addressed a public meeting at Umerkote which was attended by State ministers Ramesh Majhi, Surya Narayan Patra and Usha Devi. His public meeting at Raighar was attended by State ministers, Debi Mishra, Pratap Jena, Ramesh Majhi. It may be noted that the BJD is taking this byelection before panchayat polls next year too seriously. Around 50 top BJD leaders including around ten state ministers, MLAs and MPs including cine-star turned Berhampur MP Siddhant Mohapatra are camping in the constituency for the campaign.