Senior BJP leader and Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been campaigning rigorously in Odisha these days to ensure BJP secures all 21 seats. As poll heat raises in the state, Pradhan has made a point to begin his day early and end it around midnight, reaching out to people in every corner of the state. And if poll figures go according to his calculations, BJP is going to win big in the state this time due to PM Modi's "pro-poor" policies, aided by Naveen Patnaik's "corrupt government that has been outsourced to mining mafias". In an interview with News18 Network, the Union minister warns Odisha CM of "stern action in near future".
Here are edited excerpts:
You are considered the architect of BJP's growth in Odisha. What is giving you confidence and will your party get enough to convert the support into seats?
The primary assuring point for us is the credibility of PM Modi. His pro-poor policies have got converted into huge support and this will definitely get converted into votes in Odisha. The writing on the wall is very clear. Our prime minister is the tallest leader in India, and also in Odisha. People believe that the ruling party here is scared of PM Modi's popularity. Here, they are abusing the PM every day. But I am confident that the anti-incumbency factor is working against Naveen Patnaik. PM's campaigning will create a huge, new bank for the BJP and we will surpass them with a huge majority.
What is this new vote bank you are talking about?
Unlike what the Opposition thinks, it is BJP's pro-poor politics that has helped it grow. PM Modi's fair politics has created a new vote bank and Odisha is going to be the example of that vote bank. Our mantra of sabka saath, sabka vikas has helped us garner enormous support and not polarisation politics or caste-based politics that Opposition keeps using to attack us.
But, over 19 years, Naveen Patnaik has done a lot in terms of creating a women vote bank for his party. There are many women-centric schemes launched by him. Don't you think this will ensure that Odisha's poor stay with him?
Tell me one programme of Naveen Patnaik that has empowered women. He has served the state for 19 years; has been the chief minister four times, what has he done? On the other hand, PM Modi, who has just completed five years, gave toilets, provided Ujjwala scheme and has given electricity subsidy. In Odisha, 40 lakh women have benefited from Ujjwala scheme, 50 lakh through toilet scheme, yet another 24 lakh poor household got electricity. In all these schemes, major beneficiaries were women. Naveen Patnaik has made hollow promises but nothing concrete.
He introduced the KALIA scheme, which was launched before you announced before your farmers' scheme.
The basic difference between the two schemes is that there is no budgetary provision for KALIA, there is no criteria-based provision for beneficiaries of KALIA, relatives of senior cabinet minister, three relatives of three senior cabinet minister are the beneficiary. When the Election Commission asked them where was the budget? Where was the authentic list? Patnaik had no answer but in Kisan scheme, there is a lease supply and we never prepare a list. Those have less than five acres of cultivation, they are eligible and we have made budgetary provision for financial year 2018-19 and 2019-20 also. You can ask anybody in the rural areas of Odisha about the beneficiaries of KALIA. The actual beneficiaries are denied money, while those who have four tractors, more than 10 acres of land, are government servants and senior politicians are getting the benefit.
Your candidates are mostly turncoats; those who have joined you form BJD and other parties, like Jay Panda. What do you have to say?
Is BJD spreading rumours out of fear? It's not just BJD, people from all walks of life have joined us in the last five years. There are 147 assembly seats and 21 parliamentary constituencies. Why don't they remember Prakash Mishra, the credible face of Odisha police? What about senior IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi, who left her service to join BJP under PM Modi's leadership? Odia actress Aparajita Mohanty, doctor-turned-politician Sambit Patra, who is a national BJP face and is now contesting polls from here. Our party has expanded it's base in the last five years. Some are fighting elections and some are working for the party.
Naveen Patnaik has said that PM Modi doesn't deserve a second term. How do you look at this statement?
Those who have outsourced governance to mining mafias will certain be scared of PM Modi's na khaunga aur na khaane dunga warning. The fear of going behind bars for corruption has compelled Naveen Patnaik to give such statements. I pity them.
Even if the chief minister has certain allegations against him regarding mining mafias and chit funds, why hasn't your government at Centre launched any investigation?
Patnaik has been interrogated, not only in chit fund case, but also in coal scam. CBI has interrogated him. Law will take its own course. Patnaik will face severe things in near future.
Is there a possibility of a post-poll alliance with BJD, if you do not get the right numbers?
My answer is no because PM Modi is going to get more seats than NDA got in 2014. This time, the NDA is for effective, the prime minister is more decisive. PM Modi's leadership has been accepted all-over India.
Am I talking to the future chief minister?
I don't think so
Are you ruling yourself out?
Yes because I cannot decide my future alone. I am a small worker of my party and do the tasks as assigned to me by BJP. For example, the campaigning in Odisha. Right now, I am doing this job.
Why aren't you contesting?
Because I have been tasked with campaigning. I am directing the whole political movement in Odisha and busy touring the state. I am managing the backroom setup; my day ends at midnight. From PM Modi to Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Nitin Gadkari and Yogi Adityanath, all big leaders are campaigning in Odisha this time. Somebody has to coordinate, not all can fight polls. And I am a sincere party worker.
It has been said that BJP will be making big in Western Odisha this time, and not in the coastal belt.
Right now we are standing in the coastal belt and you can see so many people here. Not all are going to become MLAs, MPs or get top positions in Odisha. Many Congress members have joined us. Many anti-BJD people have joined us. All those fighting the corrupt BJD government are joining BJP. And most of them are from the coastal belt. BJP is going to be a pan-Odisha party this time with maximum number of Lok Sabha seats. As far as my calculation goes, we will grab all 21 seats.