We will support any govt. which fulfils Odisha’s demands: Naveen Patnaik

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is seeking a fifth consecutive term in office. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) founder speaks about the elections, maintaining equidistance from the UPA and the NDA and his proficiency in the Odiya language. Exceprts:You are seeking a record fifth term. Is there anything new that you are going to the people with or are you only depending on your record?We have achieved a great deal, but we still have far to go on every front. We have gone above the national average, but I want Odisha to become one of the leading States in the country. So we will concentrate on finance, tourism, agriculture, irrigation, etc. As far as natural calamities are concerned, Odisha had a very bad reputation before 2000 when we took over the government.After that we have achieved international standards as far as controlling the effects of natural calamities. In fact even the United Nations have complimented us on this. But the four areas I mentioned earlier are the ones where we seek to move further.Do you think that Prime Minister Modi or the NDA government he leads deserves a second term?They have had a number of failures, but the people of India will decide whether they deserve to be back. My opinion is that let it be democratically decided. They have failed on the economy, employment, agriculture, a number of things.What about social harmony? Do you think their record hasn’t been bad on that front?It hasn’t been bad, no.How do you frame this election of 2019? Is it a referendum on Mr. Modi or a State by State election?I think it will be both. It will be a referendum on Mr. Modi as far as polls to Parliament is concerned, and we being a regional party, we are interested in a State referendum. India is a federal country, and we hope to achieve great things in this election.There are reports that say that the voters in Odisha are plumping for Mr. Modi as PM and for you as chief minister. Do you think, with your experience with electoral politics, that the voter makes that distinction when he/she goes into the polling booth?Well, we have stated clearly in our manifesto, that our party will support any government at the Centre which fulfils the just demands of Odisha. So it should not be a contradiction in terms for the voter to vote for us in the Assembly and others for Parliament.You have maintained an equidistance from both the UPA and the NDA, do you think that policy has served you well?It has served us quite well till now as evidenced by the results of previous polls. We are a regional party, and our interests are for the people of Odisha. We have kept to that standard and we have achieved much. The equidistance has helped us convince the people of the State that it is their interest alone that guides us rather than playing political games in Delhi at the Centre.After initial meetings with Mamata Banerjee and K. Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana chief minister), you have stayed away from any Mahagathbandhan formation. Why is that so?We have stayed [away], as I mentioned above, for our reasons. We prefer to be isolated in Odisha. That is a policy of equidistance, and going it alone has served us well in the past.For the last 19 years, people have been talking about the fact that as chief minister of Odisha you do not speak the language. BJP president Amit Shah too has spoken about this in at least two different speeches…I am quite fluent in Odiya, I understand the people of Odisha and they understand me. I’m in equanimity with the people of the State.What do you make of the exits from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to the BJP?The ones who have exited from the BJD are mainly those people who did not get tickets from our party for these elections, and also people who have been dismissed from the party. In fact, two or three people from the BJP have left that party and joined us, even after they got tickets.You have also attacked the Centre over the non-implementation of the KALIA scheme, whereas it is the Election Commission (EC) that put a stop to it…The BJP is the one that objected to the implementation of KALIA and farmers of Odisha will give them a befitting reply. Our scheme is different from theirs. The Centre’s scheme [Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi] is for ₹6,000 per annum, our scheme envisages ₹10,000 per annum, besides also including share croppers and landless farmers, which the Central scheme does not do. We furnished whatever the EC asked for in terms of beneficiaries etc., but the BJP objected to it just the same.You have mentioned a term “double engine” in your speeches. What do you mean by that?As far as we are concerned, the double engine is that women should have empowerment. Which we certainly have given them, including 33% reservation of tickets in Lok Sabha.It is not, as it is being spread about by the BJP, of having the same party government at the Centre and the State. For us, double engine of development means men and women empowered and working together.You were one of the early supporters of demonetisation. Do you hold the same view now?When it was announced, we agreed to it because it was against black money, but it was implemented very, very badly and many poor people suffered.In hindsight, it was not a good idea and certainly not in the way it was implemented. We supported the intent to fight black money.Your sister Gita Mehta refused a Padma award because she felt that it would embarrass you politically. Did you both discuss this or was it a unilateral decision on her part?I didn’t speak to her at all about it and she did it because she felt it was too close to the elections for it to be anything other than political.