Politics is addiction. This phrase sums up senior Congress leader Narasingh Mishra who at 78 is still as charged up for the elections as ever. The Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly and Congress candidate from Balangir Assembly seat is campaigning intensively in the gruelling heat, walking at least 10-15 km a day in his bid to reach out to voters. TNIE catches up with him in the heat and dust of electioneering.
How do you assess the 2019 elections?
The BJD is sensing defeat. For the first time, I find the ruling party is hiring services of their opponents to sabotage the electoral prospects of their principal rivals and spending huge amount on it. Moreover, I find another difference in this election. The Chief Minister is spending nights outside Bhubaneswar and holding road shows which is he not habituated to.
Earlier you had announced not to contest this election. What made you to change your decision?
I still hold the view that those who have completed 70 years may continue to be in politics but not join the election fray. I had said this after winning the last election. But a politician has to act as per the wishes of voters. There was tremendous pressure from people and my party workers that forced me to change my opinion. Besides, my party decided in favour of it. I was left with two options, either to leave the party or to fight the election. I cannot quit the party. This was a compelling situation.
There is a large-scale discontentment in the party over ticket distribution and prominent leaders grabbing tickets for their children.
So far my son is concerned, he has got ticket on his own right. This time, the AICC made an extensive survey for selection of candidates. Politics by inheritance is bad. At the same time, if someone is capable enough of doing politics, you can’t debar him just because he belongs to a political family.
Do you find any resonance of the NYAY scheme announced by Congress president Rahul Gandhi with the electorate?
It has come so late. We have been talking on that, but I doubt if it has reached the grassroots. Had it been announced a bit earlier, this could have been a trump card in this election.
How do you see the slew of welfare measures announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik just before the elections?
This again indicates that BJD is losing ground. The KALIA scheme will boomerang. Wherever I go, I am getting complaints from farmers of not getting financial assistance under the scheme. The Chief Minister is very nervous because of this. This is precisely why he is assuring people that he will give KALIA assistance immediately after coming to power which is ridiculous as he is still the Chief Minister of the State.