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Speculations over Odisha CM’s meeting with PM today

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, Oct 6:

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik will be meeting prime minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi this afternoon.

The meeting is being seen as politically significant.

Sources in the chief minister’s office said the meeting is scheduled at 5.50 PM.

File pic- Naveen Patnaik meeting PM Modi (PIB)
File pic- Naveen Patnaik meeting PM Modi (PIB)

Although sources close to the chief minister claimed he would take up a number of unresolved issues relating to Odisha’s development and progress during his meeting, reliable sources told the OST that Naveen Patnaik is likely to strike a political bargain with PM Modi to ensure he and his trusted aides are not personally implicated in multiple scams that have surfaced in recent months.

Sources said, Patnaik is trying his best to mend fences with the BJP leadership, which unlike the UPA government in the past,is in no mood to allow him the long rope.

However, sources in the BJD claimed the chief minister,will reiterate the state’s demand for special category status to Odisha and urge him to put the ongoing construction of Polavaram project on hold. Patnaik is also likely to request the prime minister to take necessary measures to lower the height of the project to save 2120 hectares in Malkangiri district from being inundated, the sources added.

Apart from this, Patnaik is likely to take up the issue of cancellation of coal blocks in Odisha, which would hamper the prospects of the companies who have either already invested or evinced interest in thermal power projects in the state.

He is also likely to request the prime minister to release Rs 1397 crore Central grant to the state for the ensuing Nabakalebara festival in Puri scheduled next year.

While Odisha is yet to receive any assistance from the Centre in this regard, there is doubt over the completion of the ongoing railway expansion before the mega festivity.

Patnaik may also raise issues like Central assistance and supply of more IAF helicopters to counter the Maoist menace, language status to Ho and Koshali and introduction of international flights from Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar.

This is the second time that the chief minister is meeting the prime minister after the formation of the NDA government at the Centre.

In his earlier meeting with Modi on June 2 this year, Patnaik had demanded a hike in coal royalty and more share from the Central Sales Tax (CST).

While the Centre had agreed to revise the coal royalty  that would offer an additional Rs 1630 crore to the state exchequer, the Union Coal minister has turned down the demand of the state government to provide compensation for the loss of coal royalty amount over the last two years.

Besides, the Centre which had agreed to release Rs 1885 crore revised CST to the state, has so far released Rs 1303 crore to the state.

However, the political analysts are of the view that while the chief minister may submit the state’s wishlist to the prime minister, it will largely be a very formal affair. What is going to be more crucial and central to this meeting, they say, is the political bargain that the BJD supremo is likely to strike during the one-on-one interaction.

” With the CBI delving deep into the mega chit fund scam in Odisha, the BJD boss has too many reasons for worry. While the probe into activities of ponzi firms like Artha Tatwa and Naba Diganta have been able to establish that the ruling party leaders had undeniable links with the fianncial fraud, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Now that the Central agency has shifted its focus to the operations of the Seasore Group, mor and more skeletons will now tumble out of their cupboard. Even the state government as well as the chief minister are likely to be implicated,” said a retired bureaucrat, adding,” the Dama Babu-Pyari Babu public spat over chit fund scam has already dragged the chief minister,the Cabinet and senior most bureaucrats into the ring of suspicion.”

“The chief minister seeking a meeting with the PM is driven more by existential issues of realpolitik than state’s interests,” remarked a Delhi-based observer. He said, the lack of  interest on the part of the BJD boss in the ongoing campaign for the Kandhamal bypoll is enough indication that he wants to avoid a head-on confrontation with the BJP, which has put all its might behind its effort to wrest the seat from the BJD. He has also given up on Centre-bashing, his favourite weapon all these years, to whip up regional sentiments, he pointed out.

It is too early to predict the outcome of the meeting but there is little doubt that the ruling BJD in Odisha, for whatever reasons, is trying its best to cozy up to the BJP-led NDA government in Delhi.

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