28 December 2017
Bhubaneswar: There have been rare occasions when Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has obliged mediapersons with interviews. In a rare tete-a-tete with NDTV’s Sreenivasan Jain, Naveen, who is known for being sparse yet choosy with his words, spoke his heart out.
Naveen sharply refuted BJD MP Baijayanta Panda’s opinion on dominance of bureaucrats in governance. “Key leaders of the BJD who struggled for the party have been sidelined. Panda had said immediately after BJP’s performance in the local body (Panchayat) elections in the State,” asked Jain.
The 70-year-old Naveen’s response was blunt. “I think that it is completely incorrect, it is quite baseless infact.”
Panda had also stated that it was time for the party to introspect that the bureaucrats are running the Government. And other parties are rapidly growing because of their dynamic leadership. “What do you think he meant by that,” Jain asked.
Quick and smart was Naveen’s response, “I have no idea, truly.”
To a speculation that the BJP was trying to split BJD, and woo away some of the latter’s MPs, Naveen responded that there was no fear of such a scenario.
The Odisha CM who has retained the chair for the past 17 years, said he is not mulling any kind of alliance with the Congress or the BJP for the 2019 elections. “We shall fight on our own. The BJD remains equi-distant from the BJP or the Congress.”.
He however, kept options open for the idea of a non-BJP, non-Congress Government at the Centre. “We will see to that (regional parties’ alliance) after the results.” Naveen dismissed claims of being in touch with any regional leaders about a prospective alliance.
The regional satrap said that he had no intentions or ambitions of being a potential Prime Ministerial candidate for 2019. “I am really content being here in Odisha and working for its development.”
On being asked to rate Narendra Modi as a Prime Minister, Naveen quipped, “people voted him with full promise in 2014, there is still time to see what happens.”
The Chief Minister attributed his Government’s performance, rather than the fact that Odisha lacks a credible opposition, for BJD clinching its fourth term in 2014.
“Our development works, welfare programmes, pro-poor schemes, and focus on the progress of women and tribals, are responsible to bring us back in the fourth term.”
To a question by Jain on the rise of BJP and the ‘Narendra Modi-Amit Shah election machine’, Naveen said, it is not going to have any effect on Odisha.
“I don’t think it (BJP’s performance in Panchayat elections) was dramatic. They won one-third of the seats whereas BJD clinched two-thirds of the shares.
The veteran journo posed a salvo, “BJP says you are not in charge in the same way that you were earlier. That the Government in Odisha is a drift.”
Naveen was assertive while replying to this question. “That’s ridiculous. I am always in charge as I always was.”