The Odisha assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution demanding special category status to the state after a prolonged debate on the issue stretching for over seven hours. The resolution was moved by chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
While extending its support to the resolution, the Opposition Congress questioned the sincerity of the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) to pursue the demand.
“The intent of this government in demanding special category status for Odisha is questionable. This government is not keen on taking the Opposition into confidence in discussing such an important matter. When the Congress sought to debate on the issue on April 2 through an adjournment motion, it was not accepted. The ruling party needs to overcome its narrow mindedness and shed political arrogance for discussing the matter,” said senior Congress leader and Opposition chief whip Prasad Harichandan.
The Congress leader said previous attempts of the BJD government to fulfill its demand for special category status have failed.
“In 2002-03, when the NDA was in power with BJD as a partner in the ruling combine, the demand to declare Odisha a special category state was turned down by the Centre. Instead, this tag was accorded to Uttarakhand. The then deputy chairman of Planning Commission K C Pant even went on record saying Odisha's demand is not acceptable,” said Harichandan.
Clarifying that the Congress party was not opposed to the resolution, he said, “We support the resolution strongly. Let this resolution be passed by the house unanimously. But the demand should not be driven by political considerations nor the state government should pursue the matter for vote bank politics.”
Earlier, moving the resolution, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said, “Some members of this august house have been questioning the efforts of this government in pursuing the demand for special category status for Odisha. I would like to start by saying that this demand is very old and fully justified. We had made our demand for the first time as far back as 1979 in the National Development Council (NDC). This effort continued in the 1990s when both the 10th and 11th Odisha legislative assemblies adopted unanimous resolutions urging upon the Government of India to declare Odisha as a special category state,” Patnaik said.
Stating that his government has been vigorously pursuing the issue with the Centre, the chief minister said, “We have not only raised the demand for special category status for Odisha but have also sought modifications in the criteria for according special category status to any state. Our demand has not been considered by the Government of India though the state satisfies most of the criteria except that it does not have an international boundary.”