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Odisha bypoll: Union ministers, top BJD, Congress leaders lock horns

Odisha Congress chief Sarat Pattnayak and leaders Jaydev Jena and Niranjan Patnaik were seen electioneering for party candidate Satya Bhusan Sahu in the segment

Odisha bypoll: Union ministers, top BJD, Congress leaders lock horns

Bargarh: As the battle intensifies for the December 5 bypoll to Padampur, three major political parties of Odisha -- the ruling BJD, the BJP and the Congress go all out to woo the people of the assembly constituency, with their top leaders hitting the campaign trail. Two union ministers -- Narendra Singh Tomar and Ashwini Vaishnaw hit out at the BJD government on Sunday over farmers' issues and other development work, as they stepped up campaign for BJP candidate Pradip Purohit, the party's Odisha unit Krushak Morcha chief. Similarly, at least 10 ministers and nearly three dozen MLAs of the BJD descended on the battleground to canvass for nominee Barsha Singh Bariha.

Odisha Congress chief Sarat Pattnayak and leaders Jaydev Jena and Niranjan Patnaik were seen electioneering for party candidate Satya Bhusan Sahu in the segment. Addressing two election meetings, jointly with railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, in the bypoll-bound Odisha seat, where farmers form a sizeable chunk of the population, Tomar, the Union agriculture minister, claimed that slow pace of work by the BJD government led to delayed disbursal of crop insurance in the state. Both the ruling BJD and the opposition BJP in the state had been blaming each other for the delay in payment of crop insurance to farmers affected by drought.

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"The Centre has long released funds for crop insurance under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. The farmers here did not get the money due to the Odisha government's slow pace of work. "Instead of settling all claims, the state government is now misleading people with fake allegations," Tomar said, adding that no party should politicise issues that affect farmers' interests. Appealing to people to cast their votes in favour of Purohit, Tomar said that farmers would have never suffered had the saffron party formed government in the state. "Padampur bypoll, if won by the BJP, will send a clear message to the people of Odisha that winds of change are blowing in the state," he maintained.

Bypoll to Padampur was necessitated by the death of MLA Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha in October, whose elder daughter has been fielded by the BJD. Voting will be held on December 5, and the results will be released three days later. Vaishnaw, on his part, claimed at the public meeting that BJD leaders had been "misguiding people with lies" about a proposed rail line project in Bargarh district, of which the bypoll-bound assembly segment is a part. "The state's commerce and transport minister, Tukuni Sahu, and ex-MP Prasanna Acharya have been wrongly blaming the Centre for the non-implementation of the Bargarh-Nupada rail line project," he said.

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Narendra Modi government funds to strengthen Odisha’s railways

"I am throwing an open challenge to Odisha government that if it provides land for the rail line tomorrow, we will start work the very next day," he asserted. The Narendra Modi government had been pumping in funds to strengthen the railway infrastructure in Odisha, he said. "While the previous UPA government had allotted Rs 800 crore in annual budget for railway development in Odisha, PM Modi enhanced it to Rs 10,000 crore," he noted. Rejecting the assertions of Union ministers, BJD vice-president Prasanna Acharya said the responsibility of building a rail line lies with the Centre.

"In 2019, the railway ministry had said that building this rail line was not viable following a survey and announced that the project has been be shelved," he said at a rally, further urging Vaishnaw to make public documents where the Centre has sought land for the project. Bariha, countering Tomar's allegation, said the farmers receive crop insurance money only because of the pressure mounted for the same by the chief minister. "Had there been no by-poll, the farmers would not have received the crop insurance," she said, who along with senior party leaders held padayatra, road shows and roadside meetings in Padamppur Notified Area Council (NAC) area on Sunday.

Launching an attack on both the BJD and the BJP, Congress candidate Satya Bhusan Sahu said the Union ministers and state ministers were "migratory birds? who visit the segment during elections, and "do nothing for the welfare of the people there later". "The visit of Union Ministers and Odisha ministers will have no impact on people here. Some of them visited the constituency for the first time. People of Padmapur will reject them," Sahu, a three-time MLA from the seat, added.

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