INTERVIEW | Lok Sabha Election 2019

‘There is a pro-Modi wave in Odisha,’ says Dharmendra Pradhan

Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan speaks about the BJP’s electoral prospects in Odisha, where the party hopes to gain ground, and the induction of leaders from other parties, including the Biju Janata Dal. Excerpts:

How do you look at this election? There are reports that while for the Lok Sabha, there may be a preference for Prime Minister Modi, and or the Vidhan Sabha, Naveen Patnaik is still the top choice...

That is not the indication that we have got from the first phase of polling that just concluded, in four Lok Sabha and 28 Vidhan Sabha [seats]. The ground reports are something else. This is a perception spread by some friends that Odisha may differentiate the [election to the] Lok Sabha and the Assembly. Never in Indian history of Indian elections has the voter differentiated thus.

There is a pro-Modi wave in the State, and the Prime Minister has appealed to the voters to elect a BJP-led government at both the Centre and the State. Mr. Naveen Patnaik is facing huge anti-incumbency.

Wouldn’t it have been useful to project a face for the State?

That is not necessary. We have experimented with that model too in certain States, but our experiences in the past five years, say in Haryana, Maharashtra, even in Uttar Pradesh, have shown that it is not necessary to project a chief ministerial candidate. There were five phases of the U.P. polls, Yogi Adityanathji was not a prominent figure in any of the campaigns of those phases. He became the Chief Minister, so it doesn’t matter. The party is emerging in Odisha, and we are equals and it is not the right time to project a face.

People believe in Prime Minister Modi, and his consistently increasing support base over the past five years will be beneficial to the party.

The BJP hopes to grow, but it seems more from inductions from the BJD from which you have poached many leaders...

In election time, partyon main adlaa badli hoti hai (there is movement from party to party). In 2014, when there was a huge Modi wave across the country, the party could not do well in Odisha.

When Amit Shahji took over as party president, he sat down with us and analysed the entire issue and what were the challenges. We found that we have to expand the organisational base, if we are to convert the support for Prime Minister Modi into seats for the party.

To do this, we did two things: increase our own activities, go to the people, agitate on people’s issues, and to reach the social welfare policies of the Modi government to the people. Secondly, include good people from other parties in the BJP.

Why just BJD, if you look at our candidate list, we have given ticket to more than 25 influential Congress-background people for the Assembly polls.

This is because they took more votes than us in the last round of polls, but due to the lacklustre [performance] of the Congress and the feeling that their party was in compromise mode with the BJD, they came to us to give a real fight and protect their constituency’s interest. We have given ticket to Prakash Mishra, ex-D-G CRPF, and Aparajita Sarangi, an ex-IAS [officer], neither of whom belong to any political party; to Sambit Patra, who is a national face.

You are the best known face from the BJP in Odisha. Why didn’t you contest?

My party is in an evolutionary process, and I am required to oversee the campaign. I am campaigning morning to night for all our candidates, the nitty-gritty of coordinating work. The party has given me so many things and I should not impose my personal desires over the requirements of the party. I took a conscious decision not to contest.

Mr. Patnaik has alleged discrimination over not being able to implement KALIA while the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi is under way...

Who has stopped him from implementing the KALIA scheme? Mr. Patnaik is a frustrated person currently. He is accusing the Election Commission of being part of the Central government, whereas the EC has deferred the release of a biopic on Prime Minister Modi. He has been elected Chief Minister four times; when things were good for him, the EC was okay, now because of frustration he has joined the ranks of the mahamilawati (the adulterated) group. What has the EC asked for?

A list of beneficiaries was asked for and the budget allocation shown for the same. Relatives of senior Ministers made their way into the list of beneficiaries,

I am quoting their names: Vikram Aaruk, Niranjan Pujari, Sushanta Singh. Please ask about these three. KALIA was initiated for the financial year 2018-19, and there is no allocation. His only issue in the past 20 days is envy of Prime Minister Modi, instead of giving his report card of the past 19 years.

Mr. Patnaik has accused the BJP of not doing enough on behalf of Odisha over the Mahanadi issue, even when there was a BJP-led government in Chhattisgarh...

He [Mr. Patnaik] has got the befitting reply to that during the panchayat elections in areas around the Mahanadi basin.

This attitude of his is just a stunt. Corrupt mining contractors, in league with people close to the Chief Minister, are running the State mechanism.

Mr. Patnaik is not in control and he is in a different mode.

Due to his failures, he is giving these alibis.

I challenge him to a debate. Day before yesterday, in the Bhubhaneswar commissionerate area, a six-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped; her father went to the police station begging for her rescue, but the police did not arrive for four hours, after which local people broke the door of the accused’s house, took the girl to hospital where she died.

This is in an urban area, imagine the plight in the interiors. People will give a befitting reply to Mr. Patnaik in these polls.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 1:58:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/there-is-a-pro-modi-wave-in-odisha/article26858273.ece

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