Times of India, April 6, 2014
Ashok Pradhan,TNN Apr 6, 2014, 03.54 PM IST
BHUBANESWAR: Firm commitment to the development of poverty-stricken the Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region and western part of the state figure prominently in the manifestos of all major political parties. Experts, however, doubt genuine political will to bring regional parity.
The BJP, in its state manifesto, has promised removal of regional imbalance by formulating long-term schemes for the KBK region comprising Kalahandi, Nuapada, Sonepur, Balangir, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri and Koraput districts in a time bound manner if voted to power. It has also said it would provide for a special budget for Western Odisha Development Council (WODC), which works for the development of the western Odisha districts of Angul, Bargarh, Balangir, Boudh, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Sambalpur, Sonepur and Sundargarh.
Congress has committed to shift the WODC headquarters to a prominent location in the western part of the state from Bhubaneswar if it comes to power. It has also promised to amend the WODC Act and provide more assistance to WODC. The party has also announced they would establish HC benches in western and southern Odisha and four medical colleges in these regions.
Promising more steps for the development of western Odisha and KBK region, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), in its manifesto promised to upgrade all major two-lane roads in the KBK region to four lanes in five years and an expressway connecting northern and southern Odisha running through the backward regions of western and KBK districts if it returns to power. The regional party has also promised special drought proofing measures and irrigation facilities specifically for the drought-prone areas in KBK and western Odisha. BJD has also promised to fight for the inclusion of Sambalpuri in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
Experts feel the talk of regional imbalance is a pet subject before any election. "Talking about KBK is a trump card for any political party. However, I have my doubts about genuine political will to realize these fashionable promises," said Shukadeb Naik, a professor of sociology at Sambalpur University.
"The region's development has always been a political issue. However, the region has not progressed the way it should have. All parties are now trying to woo voters through the KBK slogan," said Amareshwar MIshra, a retired professor of political science of Utkal University.
There are many commonalities in the manifestos of all three principal parties. Both BJP and Congress have promised Rs 300 bonus per quintal of paddy. BJP and BJD have promised to fight for special category status for Odisha.