Election Result Mirrors Unequal Growth within Orissa
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Election Result Mirrors Unequal Growth within Orissa

By Digambara Patra

“Biju Janata Dal won overwhelmingly in recently conducted simultaneous assembly and parliamentary elections Orissa, however, fails in the backward Western and Southern Orissa except Ganjam due to unequal growth within Orissa in past decade”    

It is normal that a small fraction of local population in affected locality opposing industrial activities would vote against ruling party, but percentage of such votes rarely played any role in Orissa whether it was Lanjigarh, Jharsuguda, Paradeep, Puri or Kalinga Nagar. Supporting the belief further BJD also got poor response in Southern and Western Orissa such as Bargarh, Nabarangpur, etc where there were no industrial activities.

Anti-industry protest was not an election issue by any major political parties, such as BJP or Congress, in Orissa in this election unlike was the case for Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. For example, in Kalahandi anti-Vedanta protest rarely got any support out side Lanjigarh block that’s too among the affected people and few groups in Bhawanipatna who had professional and political reasons. Most of the general public out side Lanjigarh block was never excited to oppose Vedanta. Vedanta being only major industry in the district large number of intellectuals in the district out side Lanjigarh region was indeed in support of the project.  Thus, a theory put earlier based on anti-industrial sentiment was illogical.

Another theory argues that election results also rule out the possibility of two kilogram rice scheme had any big role. Was 25 kg of rice every month at Rs 2 the reason in this election BJD would have done wonder in Southern and Western Orissa where higher percentage of voters is benefited from the scheme? BJD did not receive any overwhelming response in backward and poverty zone of Western and Southern Orissa including KBK region unlike costal part of Orissa. This idea is also supported by few others.

In fact if the fate of first phase election comprising Western and large part of Southern Orissa (32 seats out of 70, 46% won by BJD) would have been repeated in the second phase election, BJD would not have got majority or might have lost this election in Orissa.

Many analysts fail to explain why people voted overwhelmingly (71 seats out of 77, 93% won by BJD & alliance) to BJD & alliance in the second phase election. BJD MP Jay Panda reasoned BJD’s overwhelming success is solely due to Naveen Patnaik and his Government’s developmental initiatives & success. Most of the people in Orissa may buy this argument; however, in that case looking at voting trend in Orissa, Jay Panda fails to explain why BJD failed in Western and Southern Orissa compared to rest of Orissa.

Scrutinizing all the points on thing is clear , “the growth in Orissa is either not equal or not reaching properly to western and southern part of Orissa except Ganjam district”. Ganjam district can also be classified as costal Orissa rather than Southern Orissa as per geography where BJD also won overwhelmingly.

If over all development is an indication in this election then congress would not have won in a huge margin for MP seat and overwhelmingly got four MLA seats in Kalahandi, an anti-congress bastion, unlike any other district in Orissa.

Kalahandi known for anti-congress sentiment had voted BJD-BJP combine in the last two elections overwhelmingly. Kalahandi was the only parliamentary constituency in the whole Southern and Western Orissa where BJD-BJP combine had won all the MLA and MP seats including an independent MLA in Nuapada, a rival BJD candidate who retuned to BJD later on. 

Out of  fifteen parliamentary elections the country has gone through since independence, congress has won only four times in Kalahandi; first time when congress wave was sweeping all over the nation under Indira Gandhi’s leadership after the fall of Janata Dal Government; second time when Indira Gandhi was killed and the nation voted sympathetically and overwhelmingly to Rajiv Gandhi Government; third time when Rajiv Gandhi was killed in 1991 the people voted Congress again sympathetically all over the nation (if Rajiv Gandhi were not killed, many analysts had predicted Advani would have been the prime minister of India in 1991, in Kalahandi too BJP would have won); and this is the fourth time Congress has won Kalahandi parliamentary seat, of course with an huge margin.

When one compares the situation of main roads, bridges, educational institutions where state Government has more roles to play (unlike the case of railways) in Kalahandi, Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Bargarh, etc these are similar as before. The conditions of main roads are as it used to be decades ago, only exceptions are few village roads through Prime Minister Gramya Sadaka Yojana.

A bridge promised by BJD Government since 2000 near Junagarh has not been fulfilled yet after two elections. Other local demands like bridge near Mahaling, Karhcala, etc and improvement of major roads are not getting any buyers. In contract Bhubaneswar region is developing like never before.

In today’s India even rural people can see what is going around. Visiting Bhubaneswar these days gives pleasant feeling with wide roads where as travelling from Balangir to Nabarangpur via Bhawanipatna on NH201 can be heartening. People from Nuapada district or Padampur almost spend the whole day to reach Jaipatna of Kalahandi district whereas Berhampur to Bhubaneswar or Sambalpur to Bhubaneswar can hardly requires few hours.

The unequal growth is clearly visible in the ground level and could be due to either unequal distribution or corruption in the ground level. In both cases it is the role of the state Government to distribute internally within the state and implement it properly in the ground level.

Unfortunately, Orissa CM visits Kalahandi, Balangir, Koraput and Kandhamal (KBKK) and other backward western Orissa region only during election time or unless there is serious trouble in the region like Maoists or flood which rarely occurs in fiver years.

In last five years he visited Kalahandi four times out of which three times just before this election; one time for laying foundation stones and other two times for election campaigning to two different regions within the district; and first time was an Arial survey during a flood in Aatigaon region.

Where as one can find him visiting Ganjam and some other costal Orissa pockets at least once, if not so often, in a year for some kind of inauguration, this or that, in addition to his visits during trouble hours. Such visit makes a difference in the ground level, as it put officials in alert and helps to monitor the progress properly in an interval when the CM is supposed to be good, proactive and honest as people in the state thought.

This is the time that seriously needs rethinking on the basis of regional growth in Western and Southern part of Orissa if BJD won this election only due to the development & nothing else, and BJD dreams for a developed and peaceful Orissa for tomorrow, in Orissa CM’s own language. Otherwise it will encourage regionalism and divide people internally within Orissa.

As Jay Panda concludes, Pappu can dance ….. saala, however, this dance should not be confined to night clubs in Bhubaneswar; the real dance comes from the ups and downs on the roads while travelling from Bongomunda (Balangir) to Raniguda (Koraput) via Kegaon, Dharamgarh, Moter, Jaipatna and Mukhiguda in KBK.

If Pappu succeeds in it all over Orissa, then we will definitely and happily say,

Pappu can really dance!!!

[Digambara Patra, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

American University of Beirut, Beirut, LebanonEmail: digpatra@yahoo.com]

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