BJD trying to divert attention from its failures, says Opposition

: With the ruling Biju Janata Dal observing a State-wide hartal on Friday demanding grant of special category State status to Odisha, the issue has taken political overtones with all major parties speaking out about the issue like never before.

As the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls are getting closer, the BJD intensified its anti-Centre tirade accusing it of neglecting Odisha by observing a hartal. The party engaged hundreds of its workers and supporters to observe the hartal by stopping vehicles in the presence of the police at main traffic intersections of the capital city as well as other places across the State.

As the BJD continued to harp on the issue of special category status for the State, the opposition parties alleged that the ruling party was trying hard to exploit the sentiment of the people by talking about special category status and the Central neglect.

That the BJD is striving hard to make the special category demand and the Central neglect as its main plank for the coming polls appeared clear when the party’s Members of Parliament too raised the demand in Parliament premises in New Delhi on Friday. Main opposition Congress too was not lagging behind on the issue of special category status for the State. As the BJD workers were busy enforcing the bandh in the State, a delegation of leaders led by Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik met Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi urging him to allocate more funds for the State and apprised him of their demand for grant of special category State status.

Mr. Patnaik also met President Pranab Mukherjee in Bhubaneswar on Thursday and submitted a memorandum urging him to grant special State category status for Odisha.

Meanwhile, the BJP alleged that the BJD attempted to observe a State-wide bandh by misusing the government machinery. The people of the State were suffering as the victims of the Central neglect and the utter failure of the BJD government, the party said.

Most of the smaller parties were too engrossed with the issue of special category status for the State. While Kalinga Sena organised a protest during the day to highlight the demand, another political party announced to organise a discussion on the issue shortly.

The common allegation being levelled against the BJD was that it was highlighting the special category status demand in order to hide the failures of its government and also to make opposition parties talk less about corruption as a major poll issue in the days to come.

Normal life hit

Normal life was badly affected following State-wide strike called by the ruling Biju Janata Dal in protest against alleged apathy of Centre towards granting special category State status to Odisha on Friday.

Although BJD leaders exercised restraint from calling a ‘general strike’ in the State and announced to perform ‘hartal’ (picketing) only, it turned out to be a ‘bandh’ as party cadres were seen enforcing the strike.

Roads wore a deserted look as buses, autorickshaws, trucks and cars kept off the road. Attendance in the State and the Central government was thin. Although educational institutions were open, no students turned up.

The public transport system was worst affected. BJD activists squatted on railway track obstructing train movements in different districts in the morning. Train services have been affected in East Coast Railway jurisdiction due to demonstration in front of trains at different stations. Some of the trains were detained en route while some local trains had been cancelled and short terminated.

Cancelled trains included Cuttack-Paradeep-Cuttack Passenger, Barhampur-Cuttack Passenger, Cuttack-Bhadrak Passenger and Bhadrak-Cuttack passenger. At around noon, normalcy returned in train movements.

At Baramunda Bus Terminal in Bhubaneswar, long distance buses did not move from the yard. Hundreds of passengers were seen waiting for impact of strike to subside. Autorickshaw and town bus service was also affected. At some places, BJD cadres had blocked the road prohibiting private cars from plying. At Badambadi Bus Stand in Cuttack, similar scene was witnessed. Shouting slogans against the Centre’s alleged apathy, BJD leaders picketed before the Central government offices in the city. BJD workers crowded in front of East Coast Railway, Reserve Bank of India, State Bank of India and Post Master General Office.In Cuttack, normal life was paralysed. BJD workers led by party leaders, including MLAs and Mayor, picketed at bus stand, railway station and other Central government offices in protest against what they called “repeated step-motherly” attitude of the Centre towards the State.

The biggest bus terminus at Badambadi here wore a deserted look as no government or private bus left the bus stand or arrived here from any destination. In a normal day, a least 1,200 buses either originate or ply through this bus terminus ferrying hundreds of passengers. While the City buses were off the roads, a few autorickshaws braving the hartal call of the ruling party workers carried passengers and did a brisk business.

Similarly, the railway station here also saw hundreds of passengers stranded as the train services were severely affected since morning. The BJD workers picketed on rail tracks forcing the trains to come to a grinding halt. The party workers were also seen picketing in front of the Central government offices raising slogans against the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.

The courts in Cuttack city had also normal business as people in general did not buy the logic behind the ruling party’s protest against the Centre.

“It was nothing but eyewash by the ruling party to camouflage its failure to provide good governance in the State,” said Prakash Panda, an eatery owner in Malgodown here, the biggest wholesale trading centre of the State.

The hartal passed off peacefully in Koraput

  • Train services hit due to hartal

  • Long distance buses are not operated