Naveen Patnaik paves path for polls

BHUBANESWAR: Poll fever is apparently gripping the ruling BJD, which has of late started announcing schemes every now and then. If kalyan mandaps and high-mast lights for towns were chief minister Naveen Patnaik's gift to urban voters on Wednesday, it was a repackaged road scheme that he unveiled on Thursday to woo the rural electorate.
All arterial roads in villages would be turned concrete within the next three years, panchayati raj minister Kalpataru Das announced following a meeting chaired by Naveen. The 'Cement Concrete Road Scheme' would get an added impetus from April 1 and every fiscal the government would spend Rs 623.50 crore, Das said, a day after the government declared it would provide Rs 70 lakh each to 37 municipalities and Rs 35 lakh each to 63 notified area councils (NACs) for constructing kalyan mandaps besides financial support for installing high-mast lights in urban areas.
Official sources said the government aims to attain saturation in constructing intra-village roads with special focus on SC and ST habitations.
Reacting to the development, OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik accused the ruling BJD of engaging in a spending spree with an eye on the next urban and General Elections. "The chief minister has started panicking and is busy emptying the public exchequer, be it through distribution of blankets or distributing Re 1 per kg rice, to buy votes for his party," Niranjan alleged.
The Opposition charge followed the CM's latest fancy to announce sops for different categories of electors. Last week, he had declared that around Rs 75 crore would be expended on making concrete arterial roads in urban areas and also unveiled the Biju Yuva Sasastikaran Yojana aimed at proving Rs 10,000 each to 4000 urban youth clubs in the state.

In recent months, he has also announced the Re one a kg rice scheme for poor families and extended the Mamata scheme, under which Rs 5000 is paid to pregnant and lactating women, to urban areas. The state government is also planning to pass the 'Odisha Property Rights to Slum Dwellers and Prevention of New Slums Bill' in the Budget session starting Feb 14 for assigning property right to slum dwellers.

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