The BJD chief’s sit-in dharna — his first since BJP came to power in 2014 — will protest against the Centre’s ‘apathy’ to the state’s farmers.
New Delhi: Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik will lead a day-long sit-in dharna in the Capital on 8 January to protest against the Narendra Modi government’s alleged failure to deliver on the promises made to farmers in the state.
This will be the first time that Patnaik will be leading a rally in the Capital against the Modi government since the BJP came to power in 2014. The two parties were allies from 2000 to 2009.
“We have been demanding an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) in line with the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendation,” senior BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said at a press conference in the Capital Friday.
“The NDA manifesto had talked about increasing the MSP by at least 50 per cent. But the government has not kept its promise. So, we have decided to hold a rally in the Capital to highlight the plight of Odisha farmers,” he added.
Mahtab, who is also the floor leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, said that besides the CM and senior BJD leaders, scores of farmers from different districts of Odisha will participate in the protest rally.
The BJD’s decision to hold a rally in the Capital comes close on the heels of a meeting between Patnaik and his Telangana counterpart K. Chandrashekar Rao in Bhubaneswar. Rao is attempting to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP front.
‘Not upping ante against BJP government’
Senior BJD leaders at the press conference, however, said the rally should not be seen as an attempt by the BJD to turn up the heat on the Modi government ahead of the coming Lok Sabha elections.
“We don’t link farmers to politics,” said Prasanna Acharya, senior BJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP.
“We are demanding that the Centre fix the MSP for common grade paddy at Rs 2,930 per quintal from the current Rs 1,750 per quintal as it is not commensurate with the rising cost of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, manure, among others,” said Pratap Kumar Deb, Rajya Sabha MP and BJD spokesperson. “Unfortunately, the state government’s proposal has been ignored by the Centre.”
The BJD’s move comes at a time when the Amit Shah-led BJP has been working overtime to expand its footprint in Odisha, where it won just one of the state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
Since then, the saffron party has emerged as the main opposition party in the state, replacing the Congress, which has been losing ground steadily.
Though officially the BJD maintains that it keeps equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress, it has bailed out the BJP-led NDA alliance on a number of occasions since 2014.
The BJD has supported some of the Modi government’s most controversial decisions such as the demonetising of high-value currency notes and the rolling out of the goods and service tax.
The BJD also did not participate in the rally organised by the Left Front in December, which was attended by a host of opposition parties, including the Congress.