Vikash Sharma

Several key Parliamentary segments, including Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat, will witness a mega fight in the last leg of the polls scheduled to be held on June 1. Ahead of the polls, OTV  News Editor Radhamadhav Mishra catches up with BJP’s Kendrapara Lok Sabha candidate Baijayant Panda who gave an insight into the attacks and counterattacks witnessed in the run-up to the crucial elections.

In the exclusive interview, the BJP National Vice-President and party’s Kendrapara MP candidate also spoke on allegations of BJD that he spread rumours about Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s health stating that it is human tendency to hide own mistakes and impose it on others.

“It is now almost 7 to 8 years that one non-Odia person, who has held Naveen babu captive, has been making such allegations. I have never said anything about CM’s health. Prominent BJP leaders recently held a press conference and not a single word was said by me on his health. I only told that no crowd is coming to CM’s public meetings and only one person is promoting him. It is not being liked by all as they are watching a non-Odia person telling the CM to speak. To counter this, they are doing deepfake AI videos so that such prompting is not visible. The person, who is making such allegations, is yet to learn Odia and making wrong references as far as our culture is concerned. It is their party who is making derogatory remarks about BJP leaders,” said Jay Panda.

Here Are The Excerpts From The Exclusive Interview:

Q: BJD’s attack on you increased after your comment that CM has been held captive. Can a 5- time CM be held captive?

Jay Panda: I had made such a comment first some 7 to 8 years ago as I know CM Naveen Patnaik since long and shared cordial relations of my family with him. I had then alleged that an outsider is misguiding the CM and prompting him. People were initially surprised but now they are seeing everything. We have seen similar thing in Tamil Nadu where its former CM, who was very popular and was inaccessible in the last 4-5 years, people could not meet her (then CM). Here also Chief Secretary, DGP or BJD leaders cannot be seen around the CM; isn’t it captivity?

Q: We have seen several leaders like Pyari Mohan Mohapatra and even you who were advising the CM and were close to him. Had anyone else tried to capture the CM?

Jay Panda: Pyari babu had a great impact on the CM as far as political planning, strategy and party is concerned. I had a personal family and personal relations with Naveen babu. My major role was in Delhi where I was the leader in Parliament of the party and was NDA coordinator when we were in coalition for 10-12 years. There were other families who had close ties with Naveen Babu, and nobody captured him. He (CM) also used to speak his heart and kept his own views without accepting anybody’s advice or suggestions. But the thing that is prevailing in the last few years here and it clearly shows that he (CM) is only remaining in one person’s presence.

Q: There was an incident during 2012 panchayat when the size of Pyari babu’s cut-out was bigger than the CM’s. Now no objection is being raised within the party or the CM when same-size cut-outs (of CM & VK Pandian) are being installed?

Jay Panda: CM had sent me to check after he got information that Pyari babu’s big size cut-out was installed in Sambalpur. I went to the programme and narrated the truth before the CM. Now the same thing is happening after 12 years.

Q: Can’t CM Naveen verify such incidents now?

Jay Panda: Naveen babu is not meeting anyone or allowed to meet. Who is left to cross check? There are 40 star campaigners in each party. We are only seeing two people while 38 others in BJD are missing. How far is it possible that CM doesn’t trust all but only one person who is non-Odia. It is really concerning if the CM is not trusting an Odia or Odia-group.

Q: Is it for this reason that BJP has raised the Odia Asmita issue? It is for the first time that a national party is alleging that regional party like BJD, who should focus on regional interest, is being accused of neglecting Odia Asmita.

Jay Panda: This is a sensitive issue as it is fundamentally wrong if we say that only a regional party can save a particular area’s interest and asmita. Here, the CM is the figurehead and those running governance are non-Odias. Whereas, BJP believes in the nation’s interest and every aspect of the country is included. When we say that our mother tongue is being given importance, we are giving importance to Odisha, our culture and cuisines. It was earlier said that only regional parties could fulfill regional aspirations. Even in Assam, everybody was saying that BJP could not win. But now, BJP is winning continuously and is presently the largest party.

Q: Is it that easy for people to snap ties with BJD which was formed by people like you on Biju Babu’s ideologies? 

Jay Panda: Biju Babu was a towering personality and was proud Odia and always used to speak about Odia asmita. But now, those running the party have not seen Biju babu and never worked with him. Those, who were associated with Biju babu and Naveen babu, were sidelined and how we can say that the party is working for Odia Asmita. In the last 7 to 8 years, there has been a series of exploitation in Odisha. The electricity that is produced here is being charged higher for Odisha people while it is sold at a cheaper to other states like Tamil Nadu for kickback.

Q: You were close to Biju babu, tall like him and a pilot as well. Did this create some insecurity towards you?

Jay Panda: Biju babu is an inspiration for many. I used to call him Biju uncle and grew up in his lap. His personality was great and many have been inspired by him. My inspiration was Biju babu as he was committed to the nation, Odisha and flying. Maybe I was wrong, but what about other leaders like Dilip Ray, Bijoy Mohapatra, Nalini Mohanty, Rama Krushna Patnaik, Braj Kishore Tripathy and others who were close to Biju Babu and brought Naveen Patnaik? Were they all wrong? This is practically not possible.

Q: We are witnessing a change and BJP now seems to be in mission mode in 2024 with the Prime Minister and other leaders making a series of visits to Odisha. Was the process delayed due to alliance talks with BJD?

Jay Panda: PM Modi always says that neglected areas including east and northeast need to be developed if India is to develop. In the last 5 years, BJP is growing and people are seeing that the government here has been outsourced. In the last 6 to 7 months, resentment among people grew when a person after taking VRS started running the party and became its face while the CM was cornered. The popularity of BJD collapsed. The ruling party went into panic mode after BJP started growing immensely at a faster pace. The alliance buzz was started by BJD. No central leaders came here and discussed with the state leaders. It were BJD leaders who had camped in Delhi for weeks to request for appointment for alliance talks. The BJD leaders created alliance rumours and they tried to demoralise BJP workers. There was widespread reaction among party workers and people and it was clear that nobody here wanted an alliance.

Q: Congress is alleging that the same friendship between BJP and BJD will return after the polls 

Jay Panda: There is a difference between governance and politics and PM Modi always believes in cooperative federalism. When there was Covid outbreak, PM Modi regularly spoke with CMs of all states and funding was increased for states. But cooperative federalism should be a two-way street. People of Odisha are deprived of Ayushman Bharat scheme when lakhs of people are getting benefits of the scheme across the country. In Kendrapara, a lot of people are in distress, they want medical treatment but are deprived. The BJD has been caught while trying to hijack several central schemes.
When I was the Kendrapara MP, I had done 54 mega drinking projects and a leading national media wrote that it was the best example of a model project through the MP Lad fund. But the ruling branded it as its own and did not take up further works. But it cannot be called cooperative federalism when you accept Central assistance if it politically suits you and rejects crores of rupees even if it doesn’t suit you.

Q: People are questioning why central agencies are not launching a crackdown when BJP leaders say that officers and others are indulging in massive scams in Odisha

Jay Panda: Central agencies have their own procedures. In Delhi, CM and others were arrested based on pieces of evidence and procedures. The Centre cannot conduct investigations on its own and use CBI till there is consent of the state or Supreme Court or High Court. A lot of steps have been taken and reports have come on the mining scam and restrictions clamped. Some raids were also conducted.  BJP never tries to harass anyone intentionally but it doesn’t mean that anybody will be allowed to go scot-free.

Q: Several videos are going viral in which women are being distributed cash, sarees and other freebies by the ruling party. How BJP will fight this?

Jay Panda: It is true that women have been used as a vote bank. SHG group policies started during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term and as BJD was formed and it was in the coalition, they were strengthened. But in the last 8 to 10 years, the SHG women are being misused and politically utilised. The women are being forced to attend public meetings which is not right. PM has advocated for women empowerment. Now in rural parts, SHG women are reacting over their misuse here and expressing their views openly.

Q: Tell us about the election campaign in Kendrapara and how confident you are and what factors might go in your favour?

Jay Panda: I contested from Kendrapara as BJP candidate at the last moment. Despite this, BJP’s vote share increased by 400 per cent. Earlier, the party’s share was 1 lakh votes in Lok Sabha and last time we got around 5 lakh votes. I had won from here twice and I had constructed mega drinking water projects, brought railway lines and built stadiums. Thousands of people contact me to rescue their loved ones stranded outside India. The people of Kendrapara have showered me with immense love and they have realised what they missed in the last 5 years. 

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