Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 23:
Politics hotted up in Odisha over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Pragati’ programme today with politicians of political parties speaking in different voices.
Modi will start Proactive Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI), a monthly video conference with state chief secretaries starting March 25 to take stock of the implementation of various centrally funded projects.
The meetings will be held through video conference on the fourth Wednesday of every month. The move will help Modi keep track of the progress, or the lack of it, in hundreds of projects, especially in infrastructure, worth trillions of rupees.
The reactions to this programme have been mixed. While some of the leaders welcomed the move saying it will help clear bottlenecks, others were of the opinion that it would be against the principles and ethos of federalism.
Curiously, opinions on the issue differed even within the same party. While BJD spokesperson Samir Dash saw nothing wrong with it, Excise minister and senior BJD leader Damodar Rout said was of the view that it would upset the delicate balance in Centre-Sate relations.
“This is absolutely fine. Earlier, officer from PMO used to hold discussions with Chief Secretary. Now the PM himself wants to do it. I see nothing wrong in it,” said Dash.
But the Excise minister was not as enthusiastic about the PM’s move as his party colleague.
“Progress can only be achieved only when there is a cordial atmosphere between the state and the centre. The Prime Minister is an elected representative like the Chief Ministers. An elected Prime Minister neglecting and bypassing the elected Chief Ministers can’t be considered beneficial from the constitutional point of view. It will lead to conflicts in administration and ultimately progress will be affected,” he said.
There were discordant notes in the Congress too with former PCC president Niranjan Patnaik and Leader of Opposition Narasingha Msihra holding differing views on the issue.
While Niranjan Patnaik advised the Prime Minister to speak to the CM directly and let the cabinet secretary deal with the chief secretary, Mishra treaded a diplomatic answer.
“This move (PRAGATI) can be viewed in two ways. First is, it is an interference in the administration of the state government, which is unconstitutional. Second, if the intention is honest and there is no politics, it can help accelerate growth,” said Mishra.
“I think, the PM should discuss with the CM or a departmental minister as per democratic traditions. I am not comfortable with the idea of the Prime Minister speaking to the chief secretary,” he added.
Predcitably, there was no such difference of opinion in the BJP. Senior BJP Leader Suresh Pujari was highly appreciative of the innovative programme by their leader.
“This speaks volumes about Modiji’s seriousness about progress. He wants to take out time from his busy schedule to review the progress of projects being implemented with central assistance to the states. This will force the Chief Secretaries to review the projects with collectors and other concerned officers at regular intervals before coming to the meetings. This will give rise to accountability and clear bottlenecks off progress,” Pujari said.