Bhubaneswar: With general elections getting closer, parties in the state are trying hard to reach out to voters staying outside the state. Keeping this in view, both the ruling BJD and the BJP have stepped up efforts to woo Odias residing in Surat.
According official figures, about seven lakh people from Odisha, mostly from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s home district Ganjam, reside in Gujarat. While many have already settled down there, a large number of them return to state during elections. Staying there also, they can influence their family votes back here, the source said.
BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Tuesday urged railways minister Piyush Goyal to introduce two new daily trains between Berhampur and Surat. In his letter, Naveen said, this will greatly serve the travelling needs of seven lakh people from Odisha working in Gujarat.
“A very large population of Odia workers are engaged in power looms, dyeing and printing, diamond cutting and other spheres of trades and commerce in Surat who need a daily train service between their place of work and place of origin,” the CM’s letter said.
Stating that there is not a single train service directly connecting Berhampur and Surat, he said, only Puri-Ahmedabad express (running four days a week), Puri-Okha Express (once a week) and Puri-Gandhidham (once a week) provide connectivity between these two places. Earlier, Naveen had written a letter to Union civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu requesting him to introduce direct flight to Surat from Bhubaneswar.
Besides, the BJD government has planned to organise an investors’ meet on the handloom sector in Surat ahead of ‘Make in Odisha’ conclave to attract young Odia entrepreneurs to put up shop here.
BJP leader and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan had participated in campaigning in Surat during the last Assembly elections in Gujarat. As BJP is in power there, the party is also supporting Pradhan.
Odisha finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera’s visit to Surat was opposed by Odia weavers association in Surat. Sources said it was engineered by the BJP to showcase its strength there.
‘Odisha Parba’, a brain child of Pradhan, is scheduled to be held in Surat September 1. The cultural event in Surat is meant to win the hearts of Odias living in Surat as till date no big event for them was organised there. The event will showcase Odia art, culture, tradition and food.