Odisha CM re­news fo­cus on so­cial sec­tor to woo vot­ers

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - NATION - De­babrata Mohanty let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha chief min­is­ter Naveen Pat­naik has re­newed his fo­cus on so­cial sec­tor, es­pe­cially health­care and food se­cu­rity, and has also set up tribal coun­cils in a bid to woo vot­ers ahead of next year’s state polls.

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief has asked state’s bu­reau­crats to reach out to each of the seven mil­lion fam­i­lies who will re­ceive health cover un­der the re­named Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yo­jana (BSKY) with a per­son­alised let­ter, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

The re­vamped scheme, named af­ter the CM’S late fa­ther Biju Pat­naik, ex­tends an an­nual health cover of ₹5 lakh and ₹7 lakh (up from a max­i­mum ₹3 lakh) to over seven mil­lion fam­i­lies al­ready ben­e­fit­ting un­der Cen­tre-spon­sored Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yo­jana and state’s Biju Krushak Kalyan Yo­jana. The scheme is slated to be of­fi­cially launched on Au­gust 15.

“Health­care is be­com­ing costly day by day and a large chunk of the BJD’S vote-bank of women and trib­als are poor who suf­fer more due to lack of fi­nan­cial mus­cle to ac­cess good health­care. It makes per­fect sense for the CM to spend more on health­care,” said Satya Prakash Das, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Sam­balpur Univer­sity.

Op­po­si­tion Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ques­tioned the tim­ing of scheme an­nounce­ment. “If the gov­ern­ment was re­ally con­cerned for the peo­ple left out of the NFSA list, it could have added them in 2015. Why did an­nounce the scheme just around the elec­tion,” asked Samir Mohanty, vice-pres­i­dent of BJP in Odisha.

Biswaran­jan Mohanty, Odisha Congress spokesman, said none of the schemes an­nounced by Pat­naik had ever worked well. “Had these schemes been work­ing, why would you hear re­ports of preg­nant woman de­liv­er­ing ba­bies by road­side?” he asked.

Pat­naik’s fo­cus on health­care has come at a time when the BJP, buoyed by its im­proved show­ing in last year’s pan­chayat polls, is gear­ing up to make in­roads in the BJD bas­tion.

Pat­naik is also re­ly­ing on food se­cu­rity to se­cure poll gains akin to the po­lit­i­cal div­i­dends he gained in 2009 polls af­ter launch­ing a ₹2 per kg rice scheme for the Below Poverty Line (BPL) peo­ple.

BJD spokesper­son Sas­mit Patra said while em­pha­sis on health and food se­cu­rity would be among the ma­jor fo­cus ar­eas of the state gov­ern­ment, Pat­naik’s clean im­age would prove to be the party’s big­gest as­set. “De­spite be­ing at the helm for 18 years, his im­age is still un­tainted. The CM’S im­age re­mains our big­gest po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal,” he said.

The party is also reach­ing out to its tribal vote bank by form­ing Spe­cial De­vel­op­ment Coun­cils in nine tribal-dom­i­nated dis­tricts. These coun­cils would in­volve rep­re­sen­ta­tion from each of the 62 tribal groups, in­clud­ing 13 vul­ner­a­ble tribes, and aim to pre­serve tribal’s cul­ture.

HT

Pat­naik’s fo­cus on health­care has come at a time when the BJP is try­ing to make in­roads in the BJD bas­tion, ahead of state polls.

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