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Interview: Dharmendra Pradhan on what Prime Minister Modi has said would occur

In an interview with TNIE Odisha Resident Editor Siba Mohanty, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and the party’s candidate for the Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat discussed elections, electoral difficulties, and why they believe the BJP is prepared for Odisha.

Unexpectedly, the Odisha polls have become brutal and unrestrained. Not only is the BJP using heavy armament in the state, but it is also not sparing the chief minister—from the prime minister to every member of the top leadership. This strategy was not even in place in 2009 after the contentious dissolution of the BJD-BJP coalition. What is the reason for this shift?

When people demand change, a political party takes a stance, and in Odisha, people are looking to the BJP at this particular moment with high hopes. The BJP was in turmoil after the breakup of the partnership in 2009. But in 2014, after just five years, the party rose to the third rank. From 2014 to 2024, the party has grown in size. We battled just as hard in 2019 and even back then. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the state several times, which is why the BJP has gained more foothold there. Growth in a political party is, in my opinion, a good indicator, but in electoral politics, numbers do count.

Congress was given such a lengthy mandate by Odisha. Despite five votes for the BJD, no governance plan has been developed. The BJD government’s only proposal is ad hocism, which is unacceptable. We are pleading with people to consider the BJP. Odisha deserves far more, as PM Modi has made clear, since states with smaller resource bases have outperformed Odisha. Besides, BJP has a track record of success. The people have put their trust in us since the BJP-ruled states have delivered excellent administration.

This time, there were discussions about a potential coalition between the two parties, but it ultimately fell through. Is the aggression intended to offset the public’s impression of an electoral struggle between rivals?

For the partnership, the BJP did not take any initiative. The BJD leaders who have publicly discussed it will be able to respond. I must cite a social media post made by Manmohan Samal, the head of the BJP in the state, thanking the Naveen Patnaik administration for its support of the BJP in the Parliament during the last ten years on matters of national importance. We received the backing of the Congress on a few topics, such the Women’s Reservation Bill. Should we be creating a coalition with the Congress?

The growth of Odisha is the most important matter. Our state vision and plan of action diverge significantly from the Naveen Patnaik administration’s. The fact that the administration has co-opted the party creates a constitutional dilemma. The state’s administrative structure has been completely destroyed by a clique in the chief minister’s office. The chief secretary and the DGP do not have the power to make decisions. MLAs, secretaries, and ministers have all been reduced to nothing. The cartel in charge of the government has profited from the chief minister’s weakness for its own purposes. We did not desire the partnership; this group did, for its own reasons.

It is also reported that the BJP realized its performance in other regions of the nation was falling short of expectations, thus it turned its attention to Odisha after the first round of polling. It now seeks restitution for the damages incurred by states like as Odisha.

Don’t consider it from the viewpoint of Odisha. An all-Indian party is the BJP. As in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and the Northeast, PM Narendra Modi has put in just as much effort in Odisha. The BJP doesn’t disregard any state. Looking back at recent history, alliance politics dominated the election debate between 1989 and 2014. Because of its excellent leadership, well-defined political platform, and robust organizational capabilities, the BJP was able to secure an absolute majority in 2014. 2019 saw the NDA reach 350 members and the BJP surpass 300. We are aiming for 400 this time, and we will succeed. Odisha was a priority state in this regard both then and now.

At a recent news conference, you and other top party officials claimed that the chief minister was being kept hostage and that his video communications were deepfakes.

Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister, is a clever political strategist. But you should see the videos that he has released after his lectures. He has served as chief minister for five times, and he shouldn’t rely on the group that is attempting to steal Odisha and damage our national image. The state’s government has been taken over by a gang of four. This cartel sells falsehoods because it has no knowledge about Odisha. Although I appreciate their reaction to the prime minister’s comments, they just promote lies in order to oppose the PM. Since the nation does not already have such a provision, the call for Odissi music to be granted classical rank is a glaring example. The CM is being forced by the clique to send factually inaccurate letters, which is a clear indication that government is breaking down. For this reason, I contend that the CM is being kept hostage and lacks control. If the state wants such a leader, let them decide.

I hold the Chief Minister in the highest regard. The CM is also aware that my friendship with Naveen Babu is much older than what his entourage believes. Since it is my duty to the public, I shall openly discuss important state concerns. As mentioned in my duty statement, I am in the opposition. Allow them to slander me for this.

You have played a key role in providing the BJP with a solid foundation over the last ten years as the party’s face in Odisha. You are the main campaigner as well. This time, after announcing your candidacy, you have seldom been seen outside of the Sambalpur LS constituency. The BJD claims that by aligning Pranab Prakash Das against you, it has effectively and strategically wedded you to Sambalpur. What’s your reaction on this?

They could field anybody they choose. They have a choice. The whole technique allegation is nonsensical. I am appreciative to my party for the Sambalpur nomination. It’s not a duel between two people. This election is a contest between beliefs, viewpoints, and a dedication to safeguarding the future. We are bringing our policies, programs, ideas, and dedication to the people of Odisha. I’ve been able to introduce the state’s 54–55 lakh families to the PM Ujjwala Yojana. Our program resulted in LPG hookups for half of the homes. Under the PM Awas Yojana, up to 34 lakh housing units have been constructed, and throughout the last ten years, we have provided central aid totaling Rs 18 lakh billion. We are presenting all of this to them independently of our state manifesto.

Pradhan Dharmendra
During this election, the governing BJD has made you their primary target. Are you considered the main danger by the BJD?

I won’t remark on the possibility that it was the BJD’s political tactic. I am a proud Odia and a menial foot soldier in my party. Many problems, in my opinion, have nothing to do with elections or voting. Infant mortality, child malnutrition, and the fact that half of high school students drop out are serious problems in my state that go beyond elections. I am not required to believe the claims of a group of individuals who say they have changed the state.

According to your estimations, how many seats will the BJP gain in the LS and Assembly elections?

We will get an outright majority in the state Assembly and all 21 Lok Sabha seats. The PM’s statements will come to pass. On June 10, a BJP chief minister will assume office.

Is a potential BJD-BJP alliance in the state after the election?

We never had such a plan, and we never will have one. Better answers may come from those that want it.

In Ganjam’s Khallikote, a BJP employee was slain purportedly amid protests over polling violations. What is your response to the news?

The BJD is becoming more panicked, as seen by the assault on MP candidate Pradeeep Panigrahy immediately after the first round of votes and the killing of a BJP worker in Khallikote. Every time, the party would turn to inciting terror. It feels like it’s losing control, so this time it’s become more hostile. In every constituency, cops have been used by it. Whether in Bhatli or Jharsuguda, all of the violence is being committed with the support of the police. The BJD fears that they will soon lose. The party’s carefully constructed façade of politeness is a facade. Remember that the BJD was responsible for 23 political killings during the 2019 election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always opposed the culture of giveaways. The BJP is offering women vouchers worth Rs 50,000 over a two-year period as part of the Subhadra Yojana. Not a freebie, is it?

It’s not a gift. The goal of the BJP is to establish a circular economy that is productive and heavily dependent on women. In order to generate 3 crore “lakhpati didis,” women would need seed money to launch small enterprises. There is a SHG movement throughout the nation, but sadly, it has taken a different turn in Odisha. Although tax collection in Odisha has increased, is it going to constructive uses? In rural regions, hundreds of millions of rupees have been distributed without a tender. Crores have been spent on song and dance in the name of promoting hockey. Is the money being used wisely? Women must get money as part of PM Modi’s clear push for women-led growth. The Subhadra Yojana is a well considered plan to accomplish that aim.

BJD has declared a free electricity initiative. What are your thoughts about it?

Private businesses in Odisha are cutting off the underprivileged and economically disadvantaged segments of the customer base’s electrical connections under the pretext of collecting arrears. I have seen families who have complained about such severe tactics while running for office. Additionally, 90% of homes are to get free electricity from the BJD. How? A productive economy ought to be the main priority, but this state administration is more interested in PR stunts.

Under Prime Minister Modi’s PM Surya Ghar Yojana, customers may purchase solar panels for up to Rs 75,000, use electricity, and sell extra energy via net metering. Aware of its novelty, the BJD imitated it and created the free power plan, demonstrating their lack of originality. PEETHA, Yuva Bahini, and the Youth Budget were among the programs and initiatives this administration had introduced. What became to all these? What became of the funds for agriculture? The cold storages are where? What about irrigation projects that are small to medium in size? Although Odisha receives enough rainfall, is there a strategy in place to collect it? It takes too long to make a paradigm change—24 years is too long. However, here, propaganda powers everything. Joseph Geobbel has taught the BJD a lot of lessons.

Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, said that all of the chit fund scammers will go to prison and that small depositors who lost money would have their money back in 18 months. The CBI began the probe more than ten years ago. When will this go place?

The CBI is a separate entity. It is aware of its duties. An issue for the state is law and order. What action was taking the state government? The Home Minister, Naveen Patnaik, was directly witness to all of this. The chit fund scandal involves a large number of figures in the governing party. Everyone is aware about Saroj Sahu. Perfect, said the Union Home Minister.

If you were elected to the seat, what would be your top three priorities for Sambalpur?

The region’s core of young talent pool is Sambalpur. It’s an economy that I want to be knowledge-based. It offers a wealth of cultural and tourist resources. One of the main objectives is to turn Sambalpur into a tourist center, since this would increase jobs. There are farmers in this civilization. Establishing food processing facilities, connecting farmers to markets, and adding value to agriculture can boost the local economy and create jobs.

My other area of interest is healthcare. It is illegal for Naveen Patnaik to have neglected his health and education.

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