On a day Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik attended a sit-in protest organised by his party, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), in the national capital and slammed the Narendra Modi-led government for not keeping its promises, Union Petroleum Minister and senior BJP leader from the state, Dharmendra Pradhan tells LIZ MATHEW that Patnaik is trying to shift the blame of his failure to the Centre. Excerpts:
Addressing a farmers’ conference in Delhi, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik accused the BJP-led government of not delivering on its promises to the farmers.
Agriculture is a state subject, and the state governments cannot shirk responsibility by blaming the Centre. Odisha is facing acute farmer distress. It is a paddy-producing state but there is no mechanism to procure paddy by the state government. Middlemen and mill owners control all paddy procurement in Odisha.
Today, the Central government is giving MSP of Rs 1,750 (per quintal) for paddy but in Odisha paddy is sold to middlemen or mill owners at most for Rs 1,000-1,200. Farmers are agitated as a result. The BJP has organised a huge farmers’ protest in (state capital) Bhubaneswar today. The state government’s record in providing facilities to farmers is abysmal – look at the number of cold storage, agri-markets, the total area irrigated, and electricity consumption by the agriculture sector. All these indicators are negative.
You say Naveen Patnaik is trying to shift the blame to the Centre.
Yes, he is. BJD MPs are not raising this issue in Parliament. They do not take these issues to the Agriculture department. Have they stalled Parliament on these issues, (even though) they are in good numbers in Parliament as a group?
They are advocating the cause of Eurofighter, but not the cause of farmers on the floor of the House.
Will BJP use it as an election issue?
It’s no longer an election issue. The entire farming community is up in arms against the (state) government for its negligence. The government is mocking at farmers’ suicides – farmers will teach them a lesson.
But it looks like only the BJP’s state unit is fighting BJD. At the national level, BJP does not seem to be fighting the BJD – at least it does not appear so.
That’s a wrong notion created by the BJD for its own interests. If you look at developments in the last three months, there have been many instances where the BJP criticised them (BJD). Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Odisha on January 5 and was very critical of the state government. He raised the issue of paddy procurement, agriculture sector crisis, women’s safety in the state, corruption, and (lack of) employment.
Yes, we have our own way of criticism. We are not so uncivilised to criticise leaders at personal level. We are against the insensitive and incompetent government of BJD, and the people are reposing their faith in BJP as an alternative.
BJP leaders in Odisha seem to be upset that the PM did not attack Patnaik in his speeches in Khurda and Baripada earlier this month.
Is it necessary to abuse personally? The Prime Minister is not so uncivilised to attack leaders personally.
But when it comes to other parties, the Prime Minister takes their name and criticises…
The Prime Minister is always Prime Minister of the country. He criticised the incompetence of the local government. He has used a line: who is giving fodder to the demon of corruption? Is it not criticism? What else you expect in a democracy? We should not be personal. It will be uncivilised.
In Parliament, the BJP always gets the support of BJD, which gives an impression that there could be an understanding between the two parties.
That’s not correct. In this (winter) session, the BJD opposed the triple talaq Bill. The BJD had sought the passage of women’s reservation Bill, but when there was a discussion on January 4, not one member from the party was present in the House.
In his own (Patnaik’s) cabinet, there are only two women members. The BJD supported the Congress demand for JPC (to look into the Rafale fighter jet deal). The Congress is fighting for Eurofighter against Rafale – Christain Michel has said he was here for Eurofighter.
A BJD MP, while speaking on Rafale issue, asked why the government had not opted for Eurofighter. Michel-mama’s durbar is too big – many from the BJD are also its members…. The BJD is not supporting the BJP at all.
So the BJP will not have any truck with the BJD?
Not at all. The BJP is going to fight it alone (in Odisha, which also holds Assembly polls this year). Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity is really high in Odisha.
But who will lead BJP at the state level?
There is no need for a particular leader. Odisha goes to the polls along with Lok Sabha. People of Odisha will elect a pro-Modi government.
There is no CM candidate?
(It is) not necessary. We are fighting with a collective leadership – PM Modi is the brand for good governance.
Will you move from national politics to state politics?
I don’t think I am the competent person to decide that. My party will decide what I should do. There are many capable leaders in Odisha. We will fight jointly.
Baijayant Panda, who quit BJD, was expected to join the BJP. Is there any possibility?
BJP is a cadre-based party. Anyone who wants to join BJP has to come out in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and accept his leadership.
Some BJD leaders like Bijoy Mohapatra and Dilip Ray had joined BJP but left recently. Does it create a negative image for the party?
My party is a cadre-based party and certain people have a different DNA. Many youngsters are joining the BJP. Some people find it uncomfortable in a cadre party.