You know, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this 2/3rd majority
corrupted his attitude. He felt he is the party – just One Man Party.
Then I committed another mistake – in the panchayat elections early this
year, I campaigned in politically difficult 13 districts which we had
lost 5 years back and became successful in wresting 12 Zilla Parishads
out of them. His ‘I-am-the-Party’ syndrome could not tolerate another
person with such a vast worker base and election campaigning-cum-winning
CV: But, why should Naveen be afraid of you? After all, it is the
image of Naveen Patnaik that brings vote while your name is associated
with everything wrong.
PM: In politics, he who works more is more prone to the blame
game while the empty hand is always clean. Till date, BJD, and for that
matter Naveen too, gets votes in the name of Biju Patnaik. But, Biju
Babu was not so fortunate like his son, he had lots of scandals and
rumors against him. As a matter of strategy, I had stonewalled Naveen’s
image against anything wrong, because he was our public face and leader
of the party. So, I was the natural target. Secondly, in any party,
credit for everything goes to the leader only.
Take the example of rice at Rs.2/- per KG. I was trying to convince the
CM since 2007 to provide rice at Rs.4 per kg in KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput)
districts, known for hunger and starvation deaths. As usual, Naveen
referred it to bureaucrats who turned it down. Then Raman Singh provided
rice at Rs.3/- in neighbouring Chhatisgarh and I again went with this
request. Bureaucracy rejected it once again. In 2008, YSR gave rice at
Rs 2/- per kg in Andhra Pradesh. When I renewed my pleading to implement
that in Odisha too, bureaucracy dismissed the proposal on the ground
that it would cost 900 crore per annum to the state exchequer. At that
time came the proposal to implement recommendations of the 6th Pay
Commission and the Chief Minister passed an annual bonanza of 2001 crore.
I was deeply hurt.
You can afford to bear 2001 crore per annum to please
mere 8 lakh government employees and pensioners in the stroke of a pen,
but you are reluctant to manage only 900 crore to feed 54 lakh families
below poverty line? My conscience forced me to revolt. The chief
minister handed over the phone to the chief secretary and his principal
secretary by turn to convince them. But I made it very clear that if the
government could not feed hungry people, I would not allow it to pay for
your luxury out of the taxpayers’ money. They had no other way than
accepting my proposal. This is the story behind Odisha government’s most
popular rice-at-Rs.2-a-kg scheme. See now who takes the credit –
obviously the chief minister. Can I or any minister, MP, MLA or party
worker take credit for any good work they do?
CV: Well, you were a bureaucrat too. What’s wrong if he depends
on some other officers?
His over dependency on bureaucracy has been a bone of contention between
us from the very beginning. Since I was a bureaucrat, people had a wrong
notion that I was responsible for this. But no, I was always insisting
on political governance to serve the hopes and ambitions of the people
in the real sense of democracy. Senior cabinet ministers feel neglected.
Secretaries pass files and take decisions bypassing ministers. Even
clerks do not listen to MLAs. Bureaucratic monopoly, led by a coterie of
a few officers, has resulted in rampant corruption at grassroots and the
poor common man is tortured and harassed. People are helpless as their
elected representatives, who they turn to with grievances, are too
helpless by this bureaucratic governance. I raised this point in 2010
State Council meeting of the party, which he took as a symptom of
CV: Anyway, Odisha has prospered a lot during Naveen’s 12 year
PM: Prospered? Having worked with Biju Babu for long, I am
influenced by his belief that real development of the state means
prosperity of every family, not the wealth of a few. It is this lack of
political governance and bureaucratic monopoly which made development
first causality in the state. If this statistics of so called growth
rate publicized by government is really development, why then people
like Jhintu Bariah still die in starvation? Why our farmers commit
suicide? Why our educated youth run to Surat and Andhra Pradesh for
work? That too when you are hyping about industrialization? When I was
handling the 2004 elections for BJD, I included in our party election
manifesto a clear blueprint about India’s first employment mission to
provide employment and self-employment to 29 lakh youth of the state
within 5 years. After electoral victory, I had to fight for over 1 year
to get a high power employment mission formed under chairmanship of the
chief minister. Little did I know that with the chief minister as head,
nothing would be done. Such an important body formed to shape the future
of our youth remained a mere signboard.
CV: Why industrialization fails in Odisha?
PM: Working with Biju Babu, I have seen the magic of political
willpower to make any developmental work a success. Any developmental
work, including industrialization, is basically meant for development of
the people at large. People are the real beneficiary of any
developmental program, they should not be victims of development. This
concept of harmonious development is missing in Odisha, for which both
the people and the industrialization have become victims. The political
willpower, which represents the interest of the people, is missing.
CV: There are allegations that you raised 200 crores to topple
the government. Are you open to an enquiry?
PM: Yes, I welcome an enquiry, not only to this allegation, but
to all the allegations so far. Rather I say invite allegations from
public and send them to enquiry too. But the big question is : who
should enquire? The state vigilance, when the chief minister and his
party colleagues are the accusers? Can it be impartial? If you are true,
then hand over enquiry to an independent agency. Why not CBI?
CV: There are rumors that you are planning to join hands with
Congress to topple the government.
PM: Rubbish. All these years I have built up the organization
against both Congress and BJP. I cannot betray the labour of my own 27
lakh party workers who fought against the main opposition party Congress
at the grassroots. And, I cannot betray my own 12 years of struggle
CV: What’s your status in BJD, now that you have been suspended?
PM: I am still in BJD. I was, I am and I shall be with the 27lakh
members of BJD till my last breath.
CV: What are your future plans? Do you aspire to be the Chief
Minister of Odisha?
PM: Repeatedly I have said, there are many leaders in BJD - the
chief minister, senior ministers, vice-presidents - but I am Worker
No.1. Though it’s an open secret that I was selecting candidates in
elections, suggesting names for different government and party posts, I
have not brought a single member of my family into politics. While many
leaders of the party were lobbying hard for tickets for their kith and
kin, I was lobbying for the real grassroots workers and youth. I feel
rewarded when I see the faces of half a century young BJD MLAs with no
political family background. If you really want a change, then change
this feudal form of politics, free politics from the clutches of a
fortunate few and create more leaders at grassroots. That is the real
empowerment of the ordinary people. All these years I was doing this and
I will continue to do so. My 27 lakh party workers and these grassroots
leaders will decide ‘our’, not mine, collective future course of action
in the best interest of Odisha and its people.
Declaration: The interview is published on permission.
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