Odisha Assembly (Image: PTI)
The opposition BJP on Friday decided to boycott the election for the Odisha Assembly Speaker on September 21 as it coincided with the 'Nuakhai' festival, an agrarian event in the western region of the state.
The BJP's decision came a day after the Congress announced boycott of the Assembly Speaker election. Both the opposition parties accused the BJD government in the state of maintaining a "step-motherly" attitude towards the people of the western region of the state.
BJP MLA Nauri Nayak at a press conference here alleged that the BJD leaders have "no respect towards the sentiments of the western Odisha people".
"It is not possible for the MLAs of western Odisha to reach the Odisha Assembly a day after the Nuakhai festival. This is because the celebrations continue till the next day for 'Bhet-ghat'. Though we had demanded a change in the date of the election, the government paid no heed to it. This has hurt the sentiments of the people of western Odisha," Nayak said.
While Nuakhai is observed on September 20, the next day is celebrated as 'Bhet-ghat' (get-together) where the younger members of the families seek blessings of elders. Many people staying in other states come to their villages to attend 'Bhet-ghat', Nayak said.
The BJP leader said the people of western Odisha have been demanding two-day holiday for the Nuakhai festival, where people consume the first crop of the season. Nuakhai is a combination of two words 'Nua' (New) and 'Khai' (eating). Earlier, Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra, who hails from Bolangir district, part of the western Odisha, said that his party's MLAs will not join the election process as the day on which the poll will be held happens to be part of Nuakhai, a major festival of western Odisha.
Mishra alleged that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been taking a "step-motherly" treatment towards the people of the western part of the state.
"It is unfortunate that despite protests, the government decided to hold the Speaker election on September 21. The Congress MLAs will not be able to attend the Speaker election on that day. It is a step-motherly attitude towards western Odisha," Mishra alleged.
The Congress leader also urged the residents of western Odisha to stand up against such a "step-motherly" treatment by the state government.
Odisha's Planning and Convergence minister Rajendra Dholakia, who hails from western Odisha, rejected opposition parties allegation of "step-motherly" treatment towards the western region of the state.
The minister said the western Odisha region has witnessed a lot of developments including the setting up of two medical colleges in Kalahandi and Bolangir districts during Patnaik's tenure as the chief minister.
The election for the post of Odisha Assembly Speaker is scheduled to take place on September 21. The post has remained vacant since the resignation of Bikram Keshari Arukha on May 12.
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