Odisha CM renews focus on social sector to woo voters
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.
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.