CM Patnaik on Jan 27, PM Modi on Feb 3: Why Western Odisha’s Sambalpur is Key in 2024


Ten days after dedicating the Shri Jagannath Heritage Corridor to people at a grand event in Puri, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is set to dedicate the Maa Samalei project to devotees in Sambalpur in Western Odisha.

Built in the 17th century by King Chatrasaya Deb, the Maa Samaleshwari Temple is one of the most important shakti peethas in the state. The grand inauguration ceremony of the Maa Samalei heritage corridor comes just after four days of the grand pran pratishtha ceremony of the idol of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.

THE AYODHYA WAY: GRAND EVENT FOR PRESIDING DEITY OF SAMBALPUR

Maa Samaleshwari is the presiding deity of Sambalpur and the whole of Western Odisha. The town on the banks of the river Mahanadi, ‘Sambalpur’ got its name from the goddess.

The Odisha government has declared a holiday for all schools and colleges in the state to mark the occasion. January 27, being the second Saturday of the month, is a holiday for government offices and banks. A heritage corridor on approximately 40 acres around the original shrine has been developed and beautified with the aim of making it more convenient for devotees.

Development of the Mahanadi river front for the evening aarti, four gates that lead to the temple, resting place for pilgrims, the office of the temple trust, watch tower, a bhoga mandapa are part of the redesigned temple built at a cost of Rs 200 crore.

“Earlier, the devotees had to stand under the sun or under the rain, now that a shade has been created in which 1500 to 200 devotees can stand at any point in time in a queue and have darshan of the deity. And, another defining thing is that in Odisha, for the first time, we are having the Mahanadi aarti in the Mahanadi Ghat which has been made. This is a first in Odisha. It will connect the Mahanadi river, which is the lifeline of Odisha, the deity and people. The offering of prayers in the river in front of the deity is unique, which is being done in this project,” said BJD MP Amar Patnaik.

Moreover, in a massive mobilisation exercise, the BJD is collecting sindoor from every house in villages and towns. It will be offered to the presiding diety on the 27th. Additionally, homas and yagyas will also be conducted. Provision has been made to ensure that 5,000 lamps can be lit at one time. As in the case of the Shri Jagannath Heritage Corridor, former IAS officer and 5 T secretary V K Pandian have overseen the entire project.

WHY WESTERN ODISHA IS KEY FOR 2024 LS POLLS

In the 2019 elections, Odisha had simultaneous assembly and general elections. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) swept to power, winning 112 of the 147 seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was far behind with just 23 seats, while the Congress won 9.

The Parliamentary elections showed a different picture. The BJP won 8 of the 21 parliamentary constituencies and five of these came from Western Odisha, including Sambalpur, where the Maa Samaleshwari project will be inaugurated on the 27th. The others are Bargarh, Sundergarh, Bolangir and Kalandhi. The BJP won one seat, Bhubaneswar, in coastal Odisha and two – Mayurbhanj and Balasore in Northern Odisha. While the numbers for the BJP went up from 1 LS seat in 2014 to 8 in 2019, the BJD came down from 20 in 2014 to 12 in 2019.

Patnaik’s renewed push in Western Odisha with the grand Maa Samlei Heritage Corridor project and the much awaited Suktel Dam project has to be seen in this light. On January 25, BJD leader V K Pandian shared a few pictures of the Heritage Corridor of the Maa Samaleshwari temple and wrote, “First glimpses of the Heritage corridor in Maa Samalei temple in Sambalpur. Unbelievable transformation with the blessings of Maa. HCM @naveen_odisha will dedicate the corridor on the 27th of January.”

The BJD is making an aggressive attempt to reclaim lost territory by trying to pay attention to Western Odisha, which has always alleged discrimination.

THEYSAY

“We don’t look at these things through a political lens,” said BJD MP Amar Patnaik. He added, “Re-capturing the space , heritage and values of ancient shrines is part of the cultural revival of Odisha. Like Maa Samaleshwari, we are also reviving the Maa Manickeshwari temple in Kalahandi and all temples in Mayurbhanj. Its being done everywhere. We have done the same for Maa Tarini in Ganjam. Money has also been given to churches and mosques.”

“Naveen Patnaik does not only focus on the cultural revival of only coastal Odisha. We recognized Birsa Munda, a tribal leader. We were basically trying to recognize the fact that western Odisha is equally rich in its culture, heritage. We are doing the same for Cuttack Chandi too. This is not a coastal-western Odisha thing,” Amar Patnaik elaborated.

The BJD MP also pointed at the Biju Express Way, the life line of Western Odisha, “which was never done in 75 years,” Suktel project and Parvatigiri irrigation project using a new technology, which was always on the cards.

State President of the BJP in Odisha Manmohan Samal told News 18: “We do not want to comment on the Maa Samalei parikrama project. It is their party’s internal programme which they are conducting by spending government’s money. It will have no impact. The Prime Minister is coming here. There were many pending dream projects. For instance, IIM in Sambalpur and 2400-MW power plant in Jharsuguda will be inaugurated. There are at least 10-12 such projects which will be inaugurated and the foundation stones will be laid. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate these and perform shilanyas for the others.”

Samal further said, “After the government programme, there will be a public programme in Sambalpur. The many successes of India under PM Modi will be discussed and shared. People will go back to their homes after taking a sankalp to form a double engine government in Odisha and make Modi the PM for the third time.”

The Prime Minister will visit Sambalpur on February 3.

The BJP state president expressed “200%” confidence that the party will form a government this year in Odisha, and, as far as Western Odisha is concerned, “it will be a one-sided victory”. When asked whether the confidence of forming the government was not misplaced given that the BJP had won just 23 of the 147 assembly constituencies in 2019, Samal pointed out that the BJP was number two on 82 seats.

Responding to the statement of the BJP president, the BJD MP said, “We would think that the BJD would have a landslide victory all over the state and it would beat its previous record of getting 123 seats when Biju Patnaik was the chief minister. We would claim 85% of the seats and that includes western Odisha. Even in the last elections, in Western Odisha, we did very well in the assembly elections. This being a regional party, it is the assembly elections to which we will give more importance. This is part of the exercise that we are doing for the transformation of the entire state and transformation cannot happen only in coastal Odisha, it has to happen in Westren Odisha also which has historically been neglected. So we are placing much more importance in Western and Southern Odisha as far as infrastructure is concerned.”

Asked to comment on the BJD government, Samal said, “Where is the government? The CM is invisible, and is seen only sometimes as a puppet when strings are pulled. Ministers have been invisible since years. There is no democracy either in the party or the government. The one who does not have the vote of the people is running the government. It is a corrupt government. The Modi government has given Rs 18 lakh crore to the state. We have been demanding an account of how the money was spent, but have not got any answers.”

Reacting sharply, BJD MP Patnaik said, “ this is really insulting the people of Odisha, the 4.5 crore voters of Odisha . He is the chief minister, he chairs cabinet meetings. He does everything. Now, whether he does it through a group pf people , ttrsuted lieutenants some bureaucrats, some non bureaucrats, that everyone does. BJP’s accusation, I think, is just a reflection of their helplessness as to what they could do to dislodge BJD.”

There have been speculations that Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan may contest this time and Sambalpur is a likely constituency for him.

Acknowledging the possibility, Samal said, “The parliamentary party will decide”. Interestingly, two Padma Shri awardees, announced on Thursday, are from Western Odisha – Binod Pasayat, a Sambalpuri folk artist, and Bhagabat Pradhan from neighbouring Bargarh and an exponent of the Sabda Nrytya.





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