BJP candidate for Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat, former bureaucrat Aparajita Sarangi, speaks to The Indian Express about the focus of her campaign — zero tolerance to corruption, unemployment and women’s safety
What prompted you to quit your job and turn a politician?
After being in administrative services for 25 years, I believed I did not have much to derive from it or give it… I wanted to go for a larger platform. Joining politics is a well-thought-out decision. I consulted my husband and children, who were very supportive… I wanted to be closer to people, understand their problems on a larger scale and politics provides you that.
Why did you decide to join the BJP?
There were other parties who invited me. After being an IAS officer, there was no logic in joining a regional party like the BJD while the Congress did not seem attractive. The BJP is a national party with presence in 16 states. Its focus on development drew me towards it. The biggest draw was the working style of PM Narendra Modi. I was impressed by his hard work, determination and transparency when I was joint secretary for MGNREGA.
Some days ago, Naveen Patnaik said the Centre has not come to the aid of the state whenever it has been hit by a natural calamity. Can that change if a member of a national party represents Odisha at the Centre?
There an be better liasoning and communication… However, I don’t agree with what the CM said. Yesterday, the PM said that in the last 4-5 years, Rs 3 lakh crore has been allotted to Odisha. This is five times more than what had been given earlier. The Centre does not distinguish between states. When I was with MGNREGA, I was never asked give less to Odisha and more to BJP-ruled states.
What, according to you, needs immediate attention in Odisha?
There should be zero tolerance to corruption… Second biggest problem is unemployment. There should also be focus on women issues — their safety and security. Attention should be paid to their economic empowerment. The BJD-government has been merely doing a lip-service. Women constitute half of the population. Yet, there is a rape case reported every other day. As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2016 report, the state is the third worst in terms of rape and domestic abuse. When I headed Mission Shakti, the objective was to make women self-reliant. That has not happened due to lack of political will… Related to all these problems is poverty. If a political party has been ruling for so long (19 years) and still there is so much poverty, then it’s a matter of failed governance. Click here for more election news
So, all the government doles have failed to reach the target beneficiary?
Quoting the PM, I would say that this is a government of “deals and doles”.
The BJP too has promised doles such as 5 kg rice, 1/2 dal and salt for Re 1 to poor.
There is a difference. Such doles should be given to a vulnerable segment. At the same time, there should be a sustainable growth model. Everything can’t be ad-hoc. There can’t be quick-fix solutions in governance… Talking of agriculture, there can’t be just KALIA scheme. There should be focus on irrigation, providing high-yielding seed and creating cold storage.
In the last general elections, the BJD won 20 out of 21 seats. How well will the BJP fare this time?
The BJP will perform extremely well this time. There is a lot of support for the BJP from every person as they are talking of change.
There is a fear that Odisha’s forest land will be affected if the BJP comes to power.
The BJP is very development-centric party. But it is also focused on ecology and has a holistic approach.
With a few days of campaigning left, what’s your focus? Are you expecting stiff contest from retired IPS Arup Patnaik?
I can’t comment on anyone. I am always battling with myself. I believe there is always a lot of scope to improve myself. I have already covered 80 per cent of my constituency in the last four months, mostly by foot. I wanted to have a total understanding of my constituency. Today, I know which area is facing drinking water problem, which part needs a cold storage. I believe with this understanding I can deliver very well as an MP. My objective is to convert Bhubaneswar, with its seven assembly segments, into the best Parliament constituency of the country in the next five years.