The Odisha government on Tuesday decided to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi for two years from October 2 this year. The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the Secretariat here. He said people belonging to all sections of society will be involved in the anniversary celebrations in the State.Observing that Mahatma Gandhi wanted to develop society on the principles of truth and non-violence, Mr. Patnaik said that he had proposed to include ‘Ahimsa’ in the preamble of the Constitution.Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Narasingha Mishra, former Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang, Culture Minister Ashok Chandra Panda, Gandhian leader Bhabani Charan Patnaik and several MPs and legislators also attended the meeting.Mr. Panda informed that five sub-committees have been constituted for the celebration of the anniversary in a grand manner. Padayatras and memorial meetings will be held across the State during the two-year period, he added.The Minister said that Gandhiji’s birth anniversary would be celebrated in schools, colleges, urban local bodies, blocks and gram panchayats. A new website will be opened to propagate the messages of Gandhiji.In order to commemorating Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Cuttack, a function will be organised in the city on March 23 next year, Mr. Panda said.Statues of Mahatma Gandhi will be erected at all district headquarters and one major road at the places Gandhiji visited will also be named after him. Gandhiji had visited Odisha eight times and toured different parts of the State.The Odisha government is also considering convening a special session of the Assembly in 2019.
After a slew of defections from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress ahead of the Assembly elections, now smaller parties like the Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksha and Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) have started losing key leaders.In a major setback to Mr. Shetti on Thursday, his right-hand man, Ravikant Tupkar, resigned from the Swabhimani Paksha. Mr. Tupkar, a mainstay of the party and one of its rising stars, is said to be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) soon. His move has prompted the Swabhimani Paksha leadership to urge Mr. Shetti to step into the poll arena himself. Mr. Shetti told The Hindu on Friday, “[Mr. Tupkar] spoke to me yesterday and said he was taking this decision as he saw no future in our party. While his loss is undeniable as he was a good spokesperson who had come up from our farmers’ movement, none of his supporters have left our party.” Mr. Shetti had been resting his hopes on Mr. Tupkar to deliver the goods in Buldhana district, where the latter is said to have a strong following. In fact, prior to the Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Shetti had asked for the Buldhana Lok Sabha seat from the Congress-NCP with the objective of fielding Mr. Tupkar.At the time, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had persuaded Mr. Shetti to settle for another seat (eventually, the Sangli seat) while promising to back Mr. Tupkar for a seat in either house of the State legislature. Since his upset loss in the Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Shetti has focused on rebuilding his party and said he is not interested in contesting the Assembly polls. However, after Mr. Tupkar’s resignation, Mr. Shetti is mulling contesting the polls to rally his crumbling party. “I will announce my decision within two days,” he told The Hindu.Meanwhile, the VBA suffered a jolt after its spokesperson, Gopichand Padalkar, an influential Dhangar leader from Sangli district, recently resigned as the party’s general secretary.Mr. Ambedkar had inducted Mr. Padalkar, a former BJP leader with a deep affiliation to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, into the VBA. The move had raised eyebrows owing to Mr. Padalkar’s close association with Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’, whose name had surfaced in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence.Mr. Padalkar had contested from the Sangli Lok Sabha seat on a VBA ticket, polling three lakh votes and affirming his hold over the Dhangar community. However, he changed his stripes soon after the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls and is likely to rejoin the BJP.At a recent meeting with his followers, he said, “[The BJP-led government] is the first administration since Independence to attempt to do something for the welfare of the Dhangars. The other parties do not care anything for the needs of our community.”