Though two decades ago, Congress had established it as an unchallenged party in Rourkela, but over last many years it has been trailing and remained only in the 3rd position vis-a-vis the BJP and BJD.
But experts feel the Congress has now a chance to regain its position as both the State ruling BJD and the BJP that has Government at the Centre have failed to deliver on their promises.
In 2000, the Congress Government in the State was replaced by the BJD- BJP coalition Government and the BJD has been ruling over the State since 2009. Similarly, since 2014, the BJP-led NDA Government has been power in the Centre. But these two parties are now facing anti-incumbency as they have failed to rise to the expectations of the people. In Sundargarh district, many important projects have failed to take off which has spread resentment among the people.
In 2008, the Congress led Union Government had decided to establish an ESIC Medical College and Hospital in Odisha. Though Rourkela was a deserving place but the State Government (alliance Government of BJD-BJP) proposed to establish it at Bhubaneswar and the foundation stone was laid by the then Union Labour Minister in 2014.
But after the NDA came to power in the Centre, it was decided in 2015 not to establish the project in Odisha. So, initially for the sake of the State Government, Rourkela was denied the project and later, for the BJP- led Union Government, the State was denied the project. Similarly, after coming to power, in its first Budget in 2014, the NDA Government had decided to establish five IIMs including one in Odisha. First, there was a demand to establish it in Rourkela.
The claim was that Rourkela was the most appropriate place for the IIM as already it had the infrastructure by way of the National Institute of Technology and BPUT campuses.
The then Director of NITR had already offered to start the institution in its campus. Not only that, in 2014 out of 21 Parliament seats, only BJP candidate Jual Oram was elected from Sundargarh and became the Union Cabinet Minister.
Besides, Dilip Ray had won in BJP ticket from Rourkela who was considered very close to the PM. But the State Government did not consider Rourkela’s claim, saying that Rourkela had no commercial airport and rather batted for Bhubaneswar.
Finally, it was established in Sambalpur from a private rented building where there is no airport. However, to cool the anger of the residents of Rourkela, the Chief Minister had declared in 2015 March for establishment of a campus of XIMB and officially it was approved in November 2015. But since then the project is in cold storage.
Similarly, the foundation stones for many more projects like Koel Barrage, Kuarmunda Medical College, RMC Market Yard and Hockey Nursery etc were laid by the Chief Minister in past years but there has been no development in those projects so far. For this the BJD is on the back foot here. Similarly, while addressing a rally before the 2014 general election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his maiden visit to Rourkela had assured for upgradation of IGH (Ispat General Hospital) to a Medical College and Super Specialty Hospital and construction of a second Brahmani bridge, besides widening of NH-143 from Biramitrapur to Rajamunda.
Though by far the construction work of the Super Specialty Hospital building has been completed and inaugurated by the President of India on March 21 but it is yet to be operational. Similarly, there is no sign of a medical college in near future.
Though the construction work for 2nd bridge is going on but it is already too late. While the Vedvyas hanging bridge is confined to promise only, the regular air connectivity is not yet established even as the UDAN scheme was introduced in 2016. While the much awaited Talcher-Bimalagarh rail line project works runs at a snail’s pace, the demand for a Special Rourkela Rail division lies ignored. Similarly, the decision to shift the Central Government run Malaria Research Centre from Rourkela to Jharkhand has multiplied the anger of the people.
While the BJD and BJP are on back foot for their failure in fulfilling and addressing the people’s expectations and internal feud among the leaders in both the parties have made their position further vulnerable.
However, at this critical juncture, Congress has chance to revive its image by seizing on constantly waning popularity of both BJP and BJD. But ironically, the Congress has failed to use opportunity due to internal fight among leaders and leg pulling. The biggest problem for party here is leaders are not ready to sacrifice their petty interest for larger interest of the party here.