The growing protests against the death of paddy saplings in the Hirakud Command Area are likely to cast a shadow on the poll prospects of the BJD. Though the BJD has made fresh inroads into the Congress bastion in Sambalpur district forcing it to go back-foot, the farmers issue may well help Congress retain the Zilla Parishad.
It was in 2006 that farmers began protesting diversion of water to industries from Hirakud dam. The issue had united the farmers against the State Government and despite a history of farmers voting against the Congress, they had voted for the Congress en masse helping it to win Sambalpur ZP in 2007.
Now, with the State Government and the authorities concerned yet to wake up to the problems of the farmers, it is widely believed that it will be a rerun of the situation this time too.
Though district BJD president Rohit Pujari toured the affected areas as a damage control measure, it has failed to make much of a difference as the farmers still await an assurance from the authorities. The State Government not acting on the issue on the plea of model Code of Conduct has failed to cut much ice with the farmers.
The farmers have been demanding adequate compensation, distribution of short-duration variety seeds besides subsidised fertilisers and pesticides.