Himansu Shekhar Rout

Amid the heightened electioneering for the General Elections-2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an exclusive interview with OTV’s Senior News Editor Radhamadhab Mishra spoke about a host of issues ranging from the BJP’s efforts of government formation in Odisha to the missing key of the Ratna Bhandar and state’s art and culture.  

Here are Some Excerpts:

Q: You came to Berhampur on May 6 when you declared the date of the BJP’s government formation on June 10 and invited people for the occasion. How could you be sure about the date?

Ans: I have long experience in politics and organisational matters as well. I organised campaigns throughout the country. I am the person who has always been in touch with people. I am not the kind of person to be remote-controlled. For the last few days, I have been observing that Odisha is in search of something. The system in Odisha has broken. Odisha needs something new; it needs new winds and new leadership. I used to talk to members of the parliament and others about Odisha. When I visited the state for a government programme prior to the declaration of the elections, I got clear hints about something – aspirations of people from Modi are more than I expected. 

People from various districts of Odisha are in Gujarat and I asked our people to inquire the Odia people about what is going on in Odisha. I got a report that there is an undercurrent of resentment in Odisha. During that government programme and public rally, I was then convinced that people were in search of an opportunity. When people have decided to vote, it was my duty to invite them to the occasion of the government formation.

Q: The BJP has made Odia Asmita a big issue this time. You have said that Odia asmita (pride) is in danger. Odisha is struggling with some basic issues like poverty, unemployment, labour migration, corruption and crimes against women. Do you think if we can save Odia asmita, all such issues will be resolved?

Ans: When swabhiman (conscience and self-pride) of people awakens, people get hurt by evils and wrongdoings. People do not tolerate these evils. Swabhiman is not an isolated word. All such things have cumulative effects. Odisha taught the country about swabhiman. Over centuries, Odia asmita played a key role in awakening the swabhiman of Bharat. Unfortunately, its significance was demolished. That is why we have such a system in Odisha now, be it political leadership or bureaucratic leadership. They let the system run as usual. The system is to manage things anyway. Over the years many things have become extinct. 

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Every household of Odisha is a treasure trove of art and traditions which are the heritage of the country. 
Now, we see a coterie has hijacked the system here. Since the people in the government are elected again and again, what happens to the art and culture does not matter to them. They have developed this system.

After Kolkata, most people from Odisha stay in Gujarat. I am well accustomed to their skills and capacities. I am shocked to think that so many people have to live far away from their homes for their livelihood. It is really worrying! Odisha has so many natural resources that it can only bring light to the whole country, but Odias are living in the dark. How can this happen to them? Swabhiman, asmita and glory do matter here. They need to be free from evils and poverty. We talk about holistic development. 

Q: It is an allegation that the government in Odisha has been outsourced. There is a coterie and someone has become its sardar (head). You have been the Chief Minister of Gujarat. How do you feel about a five-time chief minister working under such circumstances here?

Ans: Gujarat is a state where water has been a problem. But the daily life struggles are stable. Labourers are not found in my state for MGNREGS works. They are not interested in work. I had to work hard. 

If Odisha fails to get good leadership, people will not work and will manage to negotiate with any kind of life. If you ask any of the Odias in Gujarat, he will say that they have no such facilities for work in Odisha. This is something to be worried about.

Q: The BJP has mentioned the missing keys of Ratna Bhandar and the opening of four gates of Srimandir in its manifesto. All these things are related to Lord Jagannath. What is your take on this?

Ans: I have publicly said that the missing of the Ratna Bhandar keys is really shocking. Hiding the High Court-monitored report points to the fact that something is fishy about it. The people of Odisha are not the only ones who have devotion to Lord Jagannath. People across Hindustan have devotion to Him. I stay in Ahmadabad where a Jagannath temple is there. I have always said if there is a God for the poor, it is Lord Jagannath. Hence, no one can tolerate it. As for crowd management, it is the responsibility of the government. Earlier, 2000 people used to come to Kashi, but now 2 lakh people are coming. Crowd management has been made there. People come and go away after having darshan.

Q: Your take on the allegation that some popular schemes in Odisha will be closed after BJP comes to power.

Ans: I don’t think people tolerate it. Ayushman Yojana is not being implemented here. This is sheer injustice to the people of Odisha. Where there is migration, one nation one ration card and Ayushman Bharat are very useful. 

Q: Over 20 lakh people are victims of chit fund in Odisha. They have not received justice since 2013. CBI is not allegedly active in Odisha. What you will say to those victims?

Ans: CBI is active in Odisha and carrying out raids. Links are being traced. Central agencies are independent. The chit-fund victims should get back their funds. We are fully committed to fall after those involved in it.

Q: What is your take on the Congress’ allegation that BJD and BJP have a secret friendship and post-poll, they will shake hands? 

Ans: Congress has no agenda. Nobody is ready to speak against Naveen Babu and the wrongdoings of the government. That’s why they are abusing the BJP. The BJD and Congress have links. 

Also Read | Handful of corrupt leaders have captured CMO; even Lord Jagannath temple not safe under BJD: PM Modi

Q: Is BJP hesitating to project a Chief Ministerial face in the elections?

Ans: I don’t think the people of Odisha will believe in the projection of a CM face. The public know everything. They see who is doing what. Kamal is our candidate when we fight elections.

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