Leader of the Opposition in the Odisha Assembly Jayanarayan Mishra has emerged as the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) aggressive campaign in the run-up to the 2024 Assembly poll. The party is banking on the leader, who has been attacking the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government on several burning issues, to tackle the perception of being soft towards the ruling dispensation. From accusing the police of being an agent of the BJD to raising questions on the government’s 5T policy, Mr. Mishra’s no-holds-barred approach has been creating a buzz in State politics. He spoke about the BJP’s strategy ahead of the crucial poll. Excerpts:
Has the BJP adopted an aggressive stance against the BJD government at the behest of the party’s top leadership or is it a pre-poll tactic?
The State party unit has always taken an aggressive approach, be it against the Pari incident (the 2020 murder of a minor girl in Nayagarh district) or laying siege to the Revenue Divisional Commissioner’s office in Sambalpur to demand the rights of farmers. The BJP has always raised its voice against the misrule of the BJD.
As the leader of 22 MLAs in the Assembly, how effectively have you been able to put across your views?
The BJD has a massive presence in the House, but its Ministers and legislators are not able to respond to the questions posed by our MLAs. They seek cover from the Speaker.
Are you saying the Ministers are incompetent?
Incompetency is the biggest strength of a BJD leader. The party has experienced leaders, but they are not part of the Cabinet. The Chief Minister suffers from an inferiority complex and he cannot stand leaders who are more competent than him.
Is the perception that the BJP is on good terms with the BJD hampering its poll prospects?
This is a misinformation campaign by the BJD. BJP president J.P. Nadda during his recent visit to Odisha had said the State government was incompetent and needed to be dislodged.
Why has the party been out of power for the past 15 years?
Earlier, we had an alliance with the BJD. After cutting ties, we had to make our presence felt in the seats held by the BJD, but our leadership did not act. We would have formed the government if we had put up strong candidates in those seats.
What are the areas the BJP should focus on to come to power?
There is growing discontent against the government as it has not performed well in any field. We are behind on the poverty index, crimes against women are rising, and the infant and maternal mortality rates are a cause for concern. The party’s grassroots-level organisation has to be strengthened.
Why have you alleged a political conspiracy in the murder of former Health Minister Naba Kishore Das?
Even 45 days after the incident, the police have no clue about the motive. A group linked to BJD leaders was trying to take control of the transport sector, which used to be the fiefdom of the former Minister.
Why are you critical of the CM’s private secretary who is now the Secretary of the transformation initiatives (5T)?
By creating the new post, the offices of the Chief Secretary and the Development Commissioner have been made inconsequential. The 5T Secretary is not accountable to any Minister or the Assembly.
Will the government’s focus on the development of temples affect the BJP’s core vote bank?
Temples are self-sufficient and do not require government largesse. The government should free temples from its control. It is giving financial aid to a handful of temples while lakhs of temples in villages are lying in a state of neglect.