Naveen trying hard to maintain clean image

Prafulla Das

He announces two special development packages for Kandhamal and Gajapati

Naveen starts 10-day mass contact programme

Opposition struggling to put the Chief Minister on the defensive

BHUBANESWAR: As the going appears to be tough in his third term as Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik seems to be leaving no stone unturned to keep his clean image intact.

The major issues that had made things difficult for Mr. Patnaik were price rise, growing Maoist menace, the struggle by tribal people for land rights in Koraput, and unearthing of the multi-crore illegal mining scam.

More than 40 deaths due to diarrhoea in Kalahandi and the death of at least 10 persons in a village in Kandhamal due to suspected food poisoning also created an embarrassing situation for Mr. Patnaik. Too many vacant posts of doctors had worsened the situation in rural areas.

The image-conscious Chief Minister, however, has been trying hard to maintain his clean image by playing different cards.

First he tried to divert people’s attention from the main issues, primarily the mining scam, by extending wholehearted support to the Prince Dance Group that was in the race for winning a reality show in a private television channel.

However, the most useful plank that Mr. Patnaik was using to keep the people in good humour was his frequent criticism against the United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre for its alleged neglect of the State.

At regular intervals, Mr. Patnaik has been blaming the Centre for not sending adequate number of battalions of Central paramilitary forces to tackle the Maoists. Invariably after every naxal strike, Mr. Patnaik would be seen in television channels asking the Centre to send more Central forces.

In his attempt to maintain his pro-poor image, Mr. Patnaik has also recently announced that his government would fund two special development packages for tribal-dominated districts of Kandhamal and Gajapati – Biju Kandhamal Yojana and Biju Gajapati Yojana.

He has also started a 10-day mass contact programme from Gandhi Jayanti Day to woo the poor. He launched the programme by meeting people at Saliasahi, the biggest slum in Bhubaneswar.

With main opposition parties – the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party -- struggling to put the Chief Minister on the defensive, the BJD leaders were a happy lot despite facing several hurdles.

With Mr. Patnaik taking proactive measures to maintain his image, many leaders in BJD have even started claiming that they would be voted to power for a fourth consecutive term.