Bishnu Charan Das, BJD Jagatsinghpur MLA and former minister
Many leaders, who have been dropped from the ministry, have made a comeback at some point or the other. Do you wonder why you have not been able to do so since you resigned in August 2007, following your alleged involvement in manipulating your son’s matric score?
I was neither interested in becoming an MLA, nor I have ever lobbied to be made a minister. Becoming a minister is not proof of popularity, but being an MLA is. For instance, Sugyani Devi is a seven-time MLA, but has not yet been inducted as minister. But in many cases, undesirable people or those involved in corruption have been included in the ministry at different points of time. People who are opposed to the spirit of the Constitution are still in the ministry.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik is said to be intolerant of dishonest elements. Why has he not dropped these elements so far?
How can I comment on this? You must put this question to Naveen babu.
What do you think is your USP that has helped you win back-to-back Assembly elections from Jagatsinghpur since 1990?
Besides the party’s image, commitment to the people of one’s constituency matters a lot. Money and muscle power of my opponents is no match for my commitment. That is how I have been able to win the love and confidence of my people.
So you have no aspiration of being included in the ministry?
Discipline and loyalty to the party are more important than any post.
Have you ever regretted resigning as school and mass education minister in the wake of the matric mark scandal?
There was no scandal. It was a conspiracy to defame me. If I had done any wrong, I wouldn’t have been elected in the last Assembly elections. My opponents have not been successful in their attempt to organise agitational programme against me in Jagatsinghpur district. People know of my integrity.
In one of our interviews, health minister Damodar Rout labelled you a Dalit killer. How do you react?
It is utter rubbish. I have already brought it to the notice of the chief minister. I am not a Dalit-killer but a protector of Dalit interests. Incidentally, there are many allegations against Damodar Rout for insulting the feelings of Dalits, after which cases were registered against him. He had put the government in trouble by taking bail from the high court in one of the cases. He could have done so after resigning from the ministry. After getting bail, he could have joined as minister.
Why were you named in the Kujang blast incident which claimed four lives?
On November 16, 2011, I was going to attend a function in Paradip. On the way, there was a cracker explosion at Kujang. People tried to drag me into the case to defame me. When I understood the entire incident, I demanded a Crime Branch inquiry. One Sudam Biswal filed a petition and the Lok Pal asked the inspector general, Crime Branch, to probe the matter. A report has already been submitted before the Lok Pal and a copy of it is with the state government.
It is alleged that trouble arose because you were trying to make inroads into Paradip.
I never tried to enter anyone’s area. Trouble cropped up as crackers were burnt as part of a procession of the Biju Workers’ Union. I anyway resigned from the union on May 1, 2012.
What have you done for the families of the Kujang blast victims?
I met the family members of the deceased and those who were injured. Because of my initiative, bereaved families received Rs 10,000 and the injured got an assistance of Rs 7,000 from Biju Help Line, Jagatsinghpur. I took personal care to make medical treatment available to them. I also demanded compensation for them as per government norms.
You are a leading leader from Jagatsinghpur which has seen a growth in crime. What are you doing about it?
The crime rate is increasing because criminals are getting political patronage. Those in power are encouraging criminal activities. Damodar babu claims that Biju (Patnaik) babu has asked him to keep a watch on Paradip, so you better ask him about the spurt in crime. There are allegations that those involved in the killing of a BJD leader were seen in the rally of an MLA belonging to Jagatsinghpur district.
What is your stand on the proposed Posco steel project?
I support it and it will become a reality. People with vested interests are opposing it. But our government believes in peaceful industrialisation.
You were considered close to expelled BJD leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra. How are your relations now?
Exactly the way it is between him and Naveen babu now. Earlier, we were being asked to consult with him on party matters. Now we have all cut off our relations with him.
Do you believe Pyari’s exit has created a vacuum in the BJD?
BJD has become stronger now. Naveen babu’s popularity has reached even remote areas of Odisha. His developmental schemes are being appreciated by all and sundry. No Opposition party or any individual can be an alternative to Naveen Patnaik.
Who is a better CM — Biju Patnaik or Naveen?
Biju babu is god for me, Naveen babu is my leader. The former was effective in his own time and the latter is a transparent leader, appropriate for present times. Now, we have Right to Information Act and if Biju babu had been alive, he would have courted several controversies.
Morality and politics
Former minister of school and mass education, Bishnu Charan Das, 58, is an MLA of Biju Janata Dal, who represents Jagatsinghpur constituency
He completed his graduation from Swami Vivekananda Memorial College, Jagatsinghpur, and was also the president of the college students’ union for three terms
Das then pursued law at Madhusudan Law College, Cuttack. During his academic career, he took part in several movements
In one case, he was arrested as part of a students’ protest against the rape and murder of a 23-year-old, who along with her husband, had waged a war against corrupt Congress leaders
Das gave up law practice and entered into politics in 1985, but lost the elections that year. However, since 1990, he has won five Assembly elections in a row
He was inducted into the ministry in May 2006, but he had to step down a year on moral grounds following allegations that he had manipulated his son’s matric exam marks
What would you have been had you not been a politician?
I would have been a social activist. Since childhood, I was prepared to make sacrifices to serve others besides trying to eliminate inequality and injustice from society. While I was studying law, Biju (Patnaik) babu had offered me a party ticket to contest elections in 1980. But, I had to refuse because the time was not right. One of my associates had beaten up freedom fighter and legislator late Kanduri Mallick, which I condemned and expressed solidarity with Mallick by staying away from elections. In 1985, I accepted the ticket from him, but lost as the Congress gained sympathy votes following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Rajiv Gandhi’s clean image also helped the Congress win.