Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced more than a dozen sops in the past one year with an eye on the Assembly elections. He's announced everything from laptops, shoes and umbrellas to free mobile phones for over 15,000 farmers.
With laptops, mobiles, shoes, umbrellas, blankets, cycles and Re 1 per kg of rice, Patnaik is on a distribution spree in Odisha. Since the aborted coup by his former political advisor Pyari Mohan Mahapatra, a paranoid Patnaik is leaving nothing to chance. To attract voters, he has announced sops for almost every section of the society. On Tuesday, 20,000 farmers were given free mobile phones.
75-year-old Sudhir Majhi is one such beneficiary. The tribal farmer came all the way from the Mayurbhanj district to collect his free mobile. He said he already has one mobile, this one, he said will go to his grandchildren. "Since the government is providing free, I have come to take the mobile. But this will not influence my vote."
In the past 6 months, the Naveen Patnaik government has given the following sops:
- Re 1 per kg of rice for 58 lakh poor families at a cost of Rs 1,350 crore per annum.
- Free blankets to 36 lakh people costsing Rs 72 crore.
- Free umbrellas to 3 lakh pensioners at a cost of Rs 33 crore.
- Free laptops to 15 thousand students who pass class 12 exams.
- Free cycles, shoes, helmets and financial assistance for the daughter's marriage of construction workers.
- Rs 10,000 each to the onle lakh self help groups in the state at a cost of Rs 100 crore.
- Financial assistance of Rs ten thousand each to youth clubs in the state.
Odisha Congress chief Jaydev Jena said, "The Chief Minister has no right to spend the tax payer's money like this to win votes. We will register a complaint before the Election Commission of such misdeeds of Naveen Patnaik."
"If Naveen Patnaik is taking up welfare schemes and opposition have problem with this then they are anti-poor," BJD MLA Ashok Panda said.
The wooing is not just limited to voters. Almost every week the BJD government pays for massive ads in regional newspapers and news channels. Top BJD sources have also told CNN-IBN that the party spent over Rs 20 crore for the 'Swabhiman rally' held in Delhi last week for the special category status demand for the state.
Just before the last Assembly elections in the state in 2009, the Naveen Patnaik government announced the Rs 2 per kg rice scheme and many believe this worked wonders for the BJD to win the election. This time around, Naveen Patnaik is hoping to do the same by announcing a series of such populist measures.