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PM Modi, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik two sides of same coin: Jairam Ramesh

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New Delhi, May 11 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are "two sides of the same coin", Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said on Saturday, accusing the BJP and the BJD of being "in cahoots" with each other.

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Modi is on a two-day poll campaign tour of Odisha and will address three rallies in the state on Saturday. Lok Sabha and assembly elections are being held simultaneously in Odisha.

Attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Ramesh said the Odisha party has bailed out the Modi government on a number of occasions in Parliament.

"Na-veen and Na-rendra are two sides of the same coin. Why is the PM lying about his party's 'relationship status' with the BJD?" Ramesh said in a statement which he shared on X.

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He said the seat-sharing talks between the BJP and the BJD earlier this year only confirmed what was already known. "Despite officially claiming to be in opposition, the two parties are in cahoots with each other," Ramesh said.

"In the last 10 years, the BJD's MPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have bailed out the Modi sarkar (government) on every contentious Bill, including on No-Confidence Motions. The BJD even supported the Rajya Sabha candidature of BJP leader Ashwini Vaishnav, who didn't have enough BJP MLA voters to get elected," the Congress leader said.

Ramesh said the BJP in return has spared them the "bullying and intimidation" which opposition-ruled states face.

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"For its part, the Modi sarkar has spared the BJD all the bullying and intimidation that it usually reserves for opposition states - there has been no onslaught of ED-CBI enquiries and raids, and no meddling by the Raj Bhawan. Can the PM come clean on his party's association with the BJD? Is this a marriage or is it a partnership?" he asked.

"Will the PM apologise for misleading the people of the state by having his party sit in the opposition ranks while colluding with the ruling BJD?" he added.

The Congress leader also mentioned the 2023 Balasore train accident and accused the government of not taking any corrective actions after that.

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"Why has nothing changed after the Balasore train accident? 293 people were killed and over a 1,000 injured in the horrific collision of three trains in Balasore last year. While three railway officials were eventually held responsible, one can hardly absolve the central government of their role in this mishap," he said.

He claimed that the railways is struggling with high staff vacancies and, in a reply to an RTI, it admitted there were 2.74 lakh vacancies, including 1.7 lakh vacancies in the safety category. The Congress has promised to fill vacancies in 30 lakh government jobs, Ramesh said.

"A similar accident had occurred in May 2022 due to improper wiring and a cable fault, but the railway ministry did not implement any corrective measures. The Modi sarkar clearly has blood on their hands. After a disaster of this scale, why are staff vacancies still rampant in the railways?" he said.

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Ramesh, who was Union environment minister during the Congress-led UPA government, also accused the BJP of diluting forest rights of tribal communities.

He said rights given to tribal communities under the Forest Rights Act passed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2006 were undone when the Modi government introduced the Forest Conservation Amendment Act last year.

"The new Act undermines the Forest Rights Act of 2006, doing away with provisions for the consent of local communities and other statutory requirements for forest clearance in vast area. The intention, of course, is to hand over our forests to the prime minister's corporate friends," Ramesh added. PTI AO ANB ANB

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