BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday acknowledged the BJP’s rise to the pole of national politics and hoped the Central government will abide by the principles of cooperative federalism and lend all support for development and progress of the state.
In an interview with TNIE following his record fifth consecutive victory in the Assembly polls, Naveen, said he believed in constructive cooperation with the Centre and working together in a federal system to strengthen the country.
He, however, refused to accept that the BJP, which gained eight Lok Sabha seats from Odisha in 2019 against one in 2014, had made any significant inroads into the state. “
We lost most seats by a mere one to two per cent votes,” he stated.
Attributing the BJD victory to the trust of the people, he said his government had worked sincerely for the development and welfare of the people. The pro-poor, pro-woman, pro-tribal schemes of the government were the main reasons for the uninterrupted victory chain.
Refuting accusations of winning votes by giving out doles and freebies, Naveen said, “for us these are not doles, they are tools of empowerment. Our annual budget is more than Rs 1 lakh crore and only 5 per cent of that is spent on these programmes that are called doles.” Naveen’s immediate priority is to rebuild Odisha post-cyclone Fani devastation.
Congratulations. You did not just win a historic fifth consecutive term, you stonewalled the Modi juggernaut twice in a row. What makes Naveen Patnaik unconquerable?
Well, I think it is because our Government has always concentrated on the people, their development and welfare, for their pro-poor schemes, for their pro-women schemes and their pro-tribal scheme among other things.
The BJP made substantial gains in Lok Sabha though it could not translate it into the Assembly. Do you think the notion of ‘Modi for India, Naveen for Odisha’ factor played out on the ground?
Not really, because we lost most of the Parliamentary seats by a mere one or two per cent, about 10,000-20,000 votes.
Anti-incumbency claimed three State Governments six months back. But Naveen Patnaik has once again proved it wrong. What is the secret of this incessant pro-incumbency wave?
I think it’s because we offered a transparent government and our pro-poor and pro-people programmes that have brought about massive transformation in their lives.
In the run-up to the polls, you had hinted at departing from the equidistance from BJP and Congress stance. Now that the BJP and NDA have retained power at the Centre, will you be supporting the party or continue to maintain equidistance while fighting for Odisha’s rights and interests?
No, we believe in constructive cooperation with the Central Government. We would support anyone, any government that fulfils Odisha’s just demands.
With the BJP getting majority on its own, how do you see the Centre supporting Odisha and fulfilling its long-standing demands?
Well, India is a federal country and we need support for our programmes and welfare schemes. And, it is the federal system which strengthens the country.
The 2019 elections saw Naveen Patnaik like never before. You opened up to the people, you adopted a combative posture towards Opposition attacks, you covered each and every corner of the State to campaign. It was seen as a move to counter anti-incumbency.
Well, in this elections, I travelled more than 1600 km by bus alone and held 150 meetings. We keep our ears to the ground and always try and stay ahead of the opposition strategy.
The new Government will be in place in next few days but has a challenge at hand since the State is battling the impact of cyclone Fani. What will be the Government’s first priority?
Our first priority will be the re-building and the reconstruction works for the damage caused by cyclone Fani.
Apart from severe devastation, Fani dealt a severe blow to State’s economy. How will the Government deal with the financial situation arising out of the natural disaster?
We’ll do a lot on our own and we will also rely on funds from the Centre.
Since 2014, you had adopted BJD’s election manifesto as the agenda of governance. How have you performed on that scale in the last five years and what is the way forward from 2019?
Yes, indeed, we have fulfilled all our promises in the 2014 manifesto. In 2019, we certainly hope to follow up on whatever is given there.
The Naven Patnaik Government has been a model in welfare-based governance. But there is criticism that too much concentration on dole-based welfarism has strained State’s resources. How do you react to this?
Well, you see, our annual budget is more than Rs one lakh crore and only 5 per cent of that is spent on these programmes which are called doles. For us, these are not doles, these are tools of empowerment.
KALIA scheme has not only been a gamechanger but has also become a template for effective farmer support. Are you planning to develop it further?
We will certainly improve it over the next five years. It is a programme not only for normal farmers but also for the sharecroppers and the landless.
Before 2019 polls, you took up the issue of 33 per cent reservation of women in both Parliament and State assemblies with tremendous fervour. Do you think it will materialise in the coming five years?
We will certainly follow up on it and I hope that will be realised.
Since you have espoused the cause of women empowerment, will there be more representation of women in the new Cabinet?
I will certainly look into it.
Over the next five years, what would be your agenda of governance and how will you work towards your professed goal of New Odisha?
We will have excellent programmes for the people of Odisha in development and welfare and still continue our transparent government.
What makes Naveen Patnaik tick?
It’s the people’s regard for me and my regard for the people to work harder for them.