Cuttack Mayor polls: In conversation with Congress candidate Giribala Behera
With the Urban Local Body (ULB) elections in Odisha just days away, the three major political factions – Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are leaving no stones unturned in their vehement campaigning.
In the city of Cuttack, the three main parties have fielded three strong candidates for the post of Cuttack Municipal Corporation Mayor.
Sambad’s Samiran Mishra sat down with the three of them to learn what they bring to the table, beginning with Congress candidate Mrs. Giribala Behera.
The clock at the Congress office in Cuttack struck 10:45 PM as I waited for Mrs. Behera. I was told by party workers that ‘Giri apa’ was on her way from campaigning in Haripur, a locality in the other side of the town.
Apparently, she begins her campaigning at 6 AM in the morning, completes other party-related work at office and does not get to experience the comfort of her bed until past midnight.
After a few more minutes of wait, Mrs. Behera made her way to the office lobby, her body wearied, but eyes still sporting a fervid glint quite unusual for that hour of the night.
Here’s the full transcript of the conversation.
Why should the people of Cuttack vote for you?
Right since I was a child, I have always wanted to help people. I was a student leader during my time at Christ, JKBK and Ravenshaw colleges.
The Congress party has thankfully always equipped me with the right tools and enabled me to realise my dream. When people ask me what I bring to the table, I always say that I bring more than 40 years of selfless service.
In 2014, I had contested and won as a Corporator from the Congress party. People know the work I had done for them then. Although I won from one particular ward, I went out of my way to help any individual or community or locality in distress. From water issues to sanitation to medical emergencies, I contributed tirelessly to the welfare of people of Cuttack.
Later I also served as the General Secretary of PCC and President of Mahila Congress. I have devoted my entire life to public service.
What are some key issues that you hope to address if elected as Mayor?
My biggest priority is to make the city cleaner and crime-free.
Cuttack has been overlooked for 22 years while Bhubaneswar has become a ‘Smart City’. Even after declaring the two cities as Twin City, Cuttack has been largely neglected.
The previous MLAs and Mayors of other parties never truly cared for the city’s welfare. In 2019, people of Cuttack took matters into their own hands and ousted the ruling BJD MLA (Debashish Samantaray) and elected Congress party’s Mohammed Moquim.
That win gave us a lot of confidence. If people trusted us with their votes back then, I don’t see why they won’t do it again as we have the city’s best interests at heart.
Lack of work by the previous administration has resulted in Cuttack becoming dirty and polluted. Tax payers’ money is being wasted. Our aim is to not let that continue but instead use those funds to eradicate all the wrongs that are currently plaguing the city.
From cleaning the streets to laying down proper roads, my sole aim is to make Cuttack cleaner and healthier.
The previous administration failed poor people of Cuttack as there are still thousands who are not able to get access to welfare schemes. That is another sector that I want to look into.
The BJD recently created history by sweeping the Panchayat Polls and forming Zilla Parishads in all 30 districts of the state. How is the Congress planning to tackle that level of popularity?
We have done ‘padyatras’ to various wards with Hon’ble MLA Mohammed Moquim and senior Congress leader Suresh Mohapatra, among other dignitaries. We are met with love and respect wherever we go. From men, women, children and old people, everyone has been very welcoming so far.
It is a sign that people of Cuttack have faith in our party and our leadership. The response to our ‘padyatras’ has been tremendous.
One of your opponents in the upcoming polls is former Rajya Sabha MP Mr. Subhash Singh who brings a wealth of experience to the table. How do you see yourself going against him?
Mr. Subhash Singh is all talk and no action. He is nothing but a lackey of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and has never in his life contributed anything to the progress of Cuttack.
He claims to be a ‘Cuttackia’ but I am not sure how true that is.
People of this city know who does actual work and I am sure will remember that while casting their votes.
Candidates have made almost similar claims and promises to people of Cuttack. What sets you and your party apart from them?
They do not have the right mindset. I believe neither the BJP’s Sritam Das nor the BJD’s Subhash Singh have the willingness or dedication to toil for the people of this city.
They have been in power for 22 years, what have they achieved in that period? The city is still plagued by the same problems.
We have a lot of vision for Cuttack. Even though water logging in the city has been on a downward spiral for the last two years, we want to eradicate it altogether. We would also like to take up the JICA issue which has been inconveniencing our city’s people for years.
Like I said earlier, there are many welfare schemes, right from ration cards to Awas Yojanas that thousands in this city are unable to avail. My aim is to empower everyone and work for their happiness.
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