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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Q & A : J.B. Patnaik

The former Orissa Chief Minister and State Congress chief, J.B. Patnaik, is known for his political acumen, having ruled the State for 14 years in three phases. In an interview to Prafulla Das, the 76-year-old Congressman claims there is an undercurrent in favour of the Opposition Congress in the State and that the party will win more than half of the Lok Sabha seats and secure a majority in the Assembly polls. Excerpts:

The Congress won only two of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in Orissa in 1999 and 26 of the 147 Assembly seats in February 2000. What is your expectation this time?

Our party will win a majority of the Lok Sabha seats; at least 11. In the Assembly polls, we will win 85 to 90 seats because the undercurrent is very much in favour of the Congress.

It is the first time that the Congress is sharing one Lok Sabha seat and so many Assembly segments with other parties. Will this alliance help you in securing a majority in the Assembly polls?

This arrangement has been done at the national level with all secular democratic parties of the country to defeat the ruling National Democratic Alliance. It will help us in securing a majority in Orissa.

How will you counter the NDA's "feel-good factor" campaign?

The propaganda about a feel-good factor has been already demolished. Excepting the upper crust of society, no section is happy.

What will be the Congress' main poll plank in taking on the ruling BJD-BJP alliance?

Our main poll plank is [the] non-performance of the Government. It had promised to rehabilitate the people affected by the super-cyclone, provide employment to five lakh youth, [a] lot of sops for farmers and rapid industrialisation of the State. The employment opportunity it has created was far short of one lakh, direct or indirect. The farmers do not get the minimum support price for their produce. Some of the farmers have committed suicide out of frustration. No new industry has been set up, rather they are being closed down one by one due to lack of government support. The law and order situation in the State is highly deplorable. This in short speaks of the Government's failure on all fronts.

Don't you think the Chief Minister and BJD president, Naveen Patnaik's "clean image" will come in the way of your winning the polls?

The so-called clean image is under [a] cloud with scams such as the abrupt increase in steel price by Mr. Naveen Patnaik when he was the Union Steel Minister, and now the leasing of mines to various private companies from outside the State in violation of existing norms. As regards the other Ministers, they have been thoroughly exposed in the Legislature. The less said about them the better.

Why is the Opposition making the Chief Minister's inability to speak Oriya an election issue?

The person who does not know the State's language is not fit to lead the State. Which other State is led by a person who does not know its language?

How will you carry the different factions of your party in the State?

We have already carried different sections of the party in the ticket distribution and adjustments in various bodies in the party organisation.

The BJD has been saying that your party has inducted the leaders rejected by it. How do you react?

What the BJD is saying is all bunk. The Congress is like a sea in which many streams merge and that does not change the character of the party that has always been pro-poor and devoted to the service of the common masses.

What about the rebels in the Congress?

There are no rebels in the Congress in Orissa.

Several controversies had marred your previous terms as Chief Minister. Don't you think that will cast a shadow on your party's poll prospects with you as the PCC chief?

One who works naturally face criticism and controversy. During the years that I was Chief Minister, a climate of industrialisation was created, agriculture production increased as never before, tourism got a boost and Orissa marched ahead in all directions. History will not remember the controversies raised by some people out of political antagonism; it will remember the good works done.

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