[As Orissa is not on the radar of the national media, here’s a post on the current political environment of Orissa.]
On the August 17th the govt. of Orissa had to face embarrassing situation, when a central govt. committee headed by N C Saxena suggested to stall the Vedanta’s mining project in Niyamgri. It said, “Vedanta consistently violated several laws in bauxite mining at Niyamgiri, encroached upon government land, got clearances on the basis of false information and illegally built its aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh, Orissa. As the company engaged in these violations, the Orissa government colluded with it and the Centre turned a blind eye.”
This was another allegation against the Orissa govt. that it helped a private business company against existing laws. Days ago another committee had ordered to stop the land acquisition for the POSCO project due to violation of forest act. So the clean govt. with a clean chief minister suddenly seems not so clean.
The Naveen Patnaik regime came under the scanner for the 1st time this year in several issues. Naveen, whose USP is his clean image, using this image was able to form govt. for 3rd straight time in Orissa. 1st of all came the Rs 14 thousand crore mining scam. BJP used all the information it had during the days when it was in the govt. with the ruling BJD to expose the govt. Though BJP couldn’t make it a big issue owing to lack of quality state leaders, it was successful to create doubts in the minds of the common men. People feeling happy for Orissa govt.’s tryst with business biggies, suddenly started doubting it. After all, the govt. had failed to execute any of the MoUs it signed with the big companies. While the MoU with POSCO expired this year, there is still doubt over the Arcellor-Mittal steel plant. While the BJP with the help of Congress (strange but these party are on the same side in Orissa) made the first dent in the ruling camp, govt.’s own inaction in the farmer suicide case also created a negative atmosphere for the govt.
Though the govt. tactfully managed the issue by not letting the issues grow, another big scam surfaced -the coal scam. Though it wasn’t as big as the mining scam but it was important as names of 2 ministers came into picture. Naveen’s strategy for last 10 year has been to sack or force to resign ministers or MLAs even before the issues grow big. That has created an image of Naveen that was as clean as his white Kurta. In his 10 years of chief minister-ship he has sacked (or forced to resign) 21 ministers. Some of them were also BJD founding members. But Naveen powered by his political adviser Rajya Sabha MP Pyari Mahapatra’s advises had not shown mercy to any one. So it was expected that he will sack the 2 ministers alleged to be involved in the coal scam even before congress will be able to make it an issue. But for some unknown reasons Naveen didn’t do that and the Congress and the BJP made it a big issue by boycotting the full assembly session in the demand resignation of the two ministers. Is the party slipping from the holds of Naveen Patnaik? Is that the reason why he couldn’t able to ‘act’ this time? These are some questions that are being discussed in political circle here. And even before the govt. survived from these attacks, the center’s decision on POSCO and Vedanta pushed into more trouble.
Though the govt. is not under any sudden danger as it has quite comfortable numbers with it in the assembly and the united opposition (Congress+BJP) makes just one-third of the 147 member assembly, the govt. will be under scrutiny of common people. The coming days will be a test for the govt. to see how they will manage the conditions. It has already started to project the current denials of the center as political propaganda of the congress. With extremely weak opposition, both in numbers and quality of leadership, in place, Naveen may dodge the questions posed at him successfully. But 4 years are a long time in politics. Who knows during these 4 years something may reverse the tide against the govt. Even one Singur like situation can uproot a mighty govt. May be we are witnessing the beginning of the end of Naveen Patnaik.