Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik during a sit-in dharna, demanding the Centre to increase Minimum Support Price of paddy in New Delhi | Ravi Choudhary/PTI
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik during a rally in New Delhi | Ravi Choudhary/PTI
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Patnaik led a rally in the Capital against Modi government for first time since 2014, and accused it of betraying Odisha farmers. 

New Delhi: Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik Tuesday remained non-committal about whether his party would join the mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance, that the opposition parties are trying to stitch up against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

“As far as the mahagathbandhan is concerned, we will take some time, think about it and then decide,” Patnaik told reporters at New Delhi’s Talkatora stadium, soon after addressing a rally organised by his party to protest against the Modi government’s betrayal of farmers in Odisha.

Patnaik’s comments come over a fortnight after Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao met him in Bhubaneswar to discuss the possibility of forging a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front.

Also read: In a first, Naveen Patnaik to step out of Odisha and lead rally against Modi govt in Delhi

Forgotten promises

Charging the Modi government with betraying farmers in the state, Patnaik said the BJP government came to power with assurances of increasing the minimum support price (MSP) of food grain as per the Swaminathan formula.

“I have gone to the Centre many times with this demand, but it has been ignored. It was promised by the BJP in 2014 also, but they have forgotten their promise after coming to power,” the Odisha CM told the gathering comprising party MPs, MLAs and a few hundred farmers who had come from the state to participate in the day-long protest.

Patnaik will lead a delegation of senior BJD leaders to submit its memorandum of demands to President Ram Nath Kovind.

This is the first time after the BJP-led NDA government came to power that Patnaik has come to the national capital to lead a rally and speak openly about how farmers in Odisha have been given a raw deal by the Modi government.

Since 2014, the BJD has given the impression of maintaining equal distance from both the NDA and the Congress, though it has supported the former on a number of occasions, including some controversial decisions such as demonetisation in 2016.

Patnaik said the Odisha state assembly in a unanimous resolution requested the Union government to fix the MSP of paddy at Rs 2,930 per quintal.

“All section of farmers of our state are agitating over this continuously without any positive response from the Union government,” he said.

“The farmer is the soul of the Indian economy. Unless the farmers prosper, the country cannot prosper,” said Patnaik.

BJD Rajya Sabha MP Prasanna Acharya said the party will continue its struggle till the Centre responds to its demand.

Also read: BJP’s ‘friend’ Naveen Patnaik turns up the heat on govt as BJD plans rally in Delhi

Kalia scheme

Patnaik said that while the Centre has ignored the farmers’ plea, the Odisha government stepped in to launch the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (Kalia) scheme, which would benefit about 92% of the farmers in the state.

Calling the Kalia scheme a perfect solution instead of giving farm loan waiver, the Odisha chief minister said that the state government has earmarked Rs 10,180 crore for the scheme in three years.

“The scheme will provide financial, livelihood, cultivation support along with insurance support to small, marginal and the landless farmers,” he said.

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