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‘In His Dreams’: Naveen Patnaik Dismisses Modi’s Tripura-Like Prediction for Odisha Polls


Last Updated: May 09, 2019, 13:48 IST

File photo of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

File photo of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik rubbishes Tripura-like fate for the poll results in Odisha and bats against a second term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik is gunning for a record fifth tenure. Standing in the way is the BJP, but the BJD leader maintains the saffron party poses no threat to his poll prospects. In an interview to News18, Patnaik also rubbishes Tripura-like fate for the poll results in Odisha and bats against a second term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Edited excerpts:

What do you think has been the most satisfying moment of your tenure as Chief Minister?

When I became Chief Minister, we were a rice-deficit state. We had to import rice from other states. Now, we are the third-largest contributor to the public distribution system. We are totally self-sufficient in rice. Earlier, Odisha was known as a failure in disaster management. Now, we have set international standards. Even the United Nations has complimented us on that.

Looking back at your life before and after joining politics, do you have any regrets? Because you led a very different kind of life before and, perhaps, are a very rare example of somebody who has changed so much after joining politics; so much that you have not left Odisha?

No, I do not miss the earlier life. Life in Odisha and doing good work is more satisfying.

Do you think you could have done perhaps better when it comes to unemployment and youth?

Odisha has the best skill agency in India and we are doing our best as far as unemployment is concerned.

But could you have done better?

You can always do better, but we are trying very hard.

In your election speeches, Kalia is very frequently mentioned. You have accused the BJP of stalling the implementation of Kalia. You have gone to the Election Commission complaining about it. How do you think it is going out to play on the ground and why is this such a crucial project for you?

Kalia is an excellent scheme for farmers and we have implemented it. The central government has copied it. Now it’s being implemented all over the country. Here, during the election period, the BJP has tried to stop it. This is very bad as this is an important scheme- . The farmers will give them a befitting reply.

You have maintained that you are equidistant from both the Congress and the BJP, especially since 2009. But your party has supported key BJP-led legislations in Parliament and walked out during a crucial trust vote. You have also been a member of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet. Is it fair to say then that the BJD is perhaps closer to the BJP than to the Congress?

No, we are not close to either party. They haven’t done anything much for Odisha. We supported the legislations because they were good.

You have also said in your election speeches that the BJD is going to play an important role in government formation. If the BJP-led NDA coalition falls short of majority, would you lend your support to it?

We will support any side that supports the just demands of Odisha.

So, you are open to supporting both BJP and Congress-led formations?

As I said, if they support the legitimate demand of Odisha…

How would you contrast the tenures of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose cabinet you worked in, and Narendra Modi?

I think Vajpayee was among the best prime ministers India ever had. Modi still needs to be tested.

How would you compare Vajpayee and Modi?

As I said, Vajpayee is one of the best prime ministers we had; Modi has not been successful.

Why do you say that?

You can see that in the last five years, his promises on employment, irrigation, railways etc. have not been followed.

Do you think Modi deserves a second term as PM?

I don’t really think so, no.

How would you respond to the Prime Minister’s statement that Odisha will become another Tripura?

In his dreams.

You are absolutely confident nothing of the sort is going to happen?

Absolutely not. We will have a comfortable majority this election.

You broke it off with the BJP in 2009 following the Kandhamal riots, saying it’s a communal party. But, today you are saying that you are open to lending support to the BJP at the

Centre or a BJP-led formation if it serves the interests of Odisha. How do you reconcile that?

Because we have a lot of important demands which we want fulfilled.

One of your key refrains this election is that you will not leave Odisha and go. Many states have given prime ministers to the country; you yourself have said there will be a coalition government now. Maybe you can serve the state better by becoming prime minister?

No, I don’t think so. I will continue to stay in the state to serve it.

So you have no prime ministerial ambitions at all?

None whatsoever.

BJP chief Amit Shah has launched a very sharp attack on you and your office. He has said that the Odisha government is a ‘fused transformer’, then he said it needed the double engine – same government at the state and Centre. He has also targeted you on your inability to speak Odia…

When he speaks of ‘fused transformers’, he will learn who the transformer of Odisha is and that the BJP is a fused government. As far as Odia is concerned, I now address all my speeches in Odia.

How do you perceive Rahul Gandhi as an emerging leader?

He still has to mature.

When you say Rahul Gandhi has to mature, would you advise him to stay in one particular state and serve for a considerable period of time before dreaming of bigger things? Like you did?

That would be a healthy thing for him.

Many opposition leaders, including Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi, have accused Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of using state instruments to settle political scores.

I am afraid that’s true.

Do you also feel there is a conscious attempt to polarise voters along religious lines?

The BJD is a secular and democratic party. We certainly disapprove of any communal behaviour.

But do you think communal polarisation is being practised on the ground?

Sadly, yes.

Do you feel the Election Commission of India is acting as an arm of the ruling party or do you think it has some credibility left?

It seems it has become an arm of the ruling party.

You are contesting for the first time from two constituencies. What prompted you to take that decision?

I am standing from the second constituency because the people of western Odisha demanded that.

Are you saying that the BJP poses no threat to the BJD in Odisha?

No, I see no threat.

Who is your principal opponent in the state? Is it Dharmendra Pradhan or is it Narendra Modi?

It has become the BJP.

Who in the BJP? Dharmendra Pradhan or Narendra Modi?

It is Narendra Modi.

What do you expect out of these results? And is BJD a one-man party?

We have plenty of senior leaders. We are certainly not a one-man party.

Do you have a second rung of leadership?

We do, indeed.

In your election affidavit, you have said that you owe your sister Rs 15 lakh. It is well-known that you are very close to her. What kind of a relationship do you share with your sister and is she your political advisor?

She is not my political advisor. She lives far away.

What is your attachment to the old ambassador car that you have? You are not selling it off or disposing it off?

It was my father's car.

first published:April 22, 2019, 12:13 IST
last updated:May 09, 2019, 13:48 IST