‘BJD will win in Bijepur’

Hot seat: Prasanna Acharya; BJD vice-president and Rajya Sabha member

  • Published 14.10.17

Rita Sahu, widow of late Congress MLA Subal Sahu, is now the BJD’s candidate in Bijepur. You were defeated by Sahu in 2014. There is a perception that you are not happy with this development…

This is the creation of a section of media. Subal Sahu was very close to me despite belonging to a different party. You think I should not have supported Rita Sahu and extended support to Ashok Panigrahi, a habitual offender who has the least concern for party discipline? Even Biju babu had suspended him from the party and now Naveen babu has thrown him out of the BJD. If you carefully read my statement, you will know that I had not objected to Rita’s candidature. She is our candidate and will win the seat with an overwhelming majority.
Ashok Panigrahi had stirred a controversy by saying that he had contested as an Independent against you at the behest of Naveen babu. Perhaps he is trying to say that Naveen babu did not want you to win from Bijepur, considering you lost the election by a mere 458 votes...

As the chief minister has already denied the allegation, I need not react. 
The Bijepur bypoll will be an acid test for the BJD as the BJP is getting stronger in the area. It won six out of the seven zila parishad seats in the last panchayat election…

Our party will certainly win the bypoll. There are mainly three reasons for it. First, zila parishad election is different from Assembly and parliamentary elections. In the three-tier panchayati raj system, it’s the sarapanchs and panchayat samiti members who play a major role, blocks are the key constituent in the administration. Second, in all the three blocks of the area, it’s either the Congress or the BJD which is in power. Third, nearly 80 per cent sarpanch and ward member seats have been won by the BJD. Taking all these into consideration, one can safely conclude that our party will have a smooth sailing in the election.  
You may claim that, but differences among local BJD leaders have surfaced. The party has not won the seat since 2004. How can you hope to win it?

Difference of opinion is there. We are a democratic party and everyone has the right to express his opinion. But once the party president takes a decision, everyone abides by it.
The BJP is a force to reckon with in west Odisha, where you are from. Don’t you think that the BJD’s grip on the area is slipping?

No. In fact, the BJP’s decline has begun. Their hollowness has already been exposed. People are unhappy with the way they implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation, which have affected the economy. The middle class has already drifted away from them. 

But it seems that your party has drifted away from the people over the years and there is no development in the state...

We are with the people. Let us wait for the elections in Gujarat and other states. We are eagerly awaiting that. Everyone will know whether people are with the BJP. What is the state’s GDP growth vis-à-vis the national growth figure?

Our work speaks for us. We have been awarded for our fiscal discipline. Many of the central ministries have awarded the state government for our work. 

The BJP had earlier said that you should be brought under the purview of a CBI probe for your alleged links with two deposit collection companies — Green Ray International Limited (GRIL) and Sea Shore. During your tenure as health and family welfare minister, you had granted a licence to GRIL for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products…

I have asked the BJP leaders to persuade the CBI to conduct an inquiry against me. They can take all files and examine them.
Your party seems to be in a nervous state following the CBI’s arrest of Cuttack-Choudwar MLA Pravat Biswal in a deposit collection case. It even staged protests…

Let me make it clear that we are not against the CBI. But we don’t want its prestige and status under the Constitution to be eroded.We are co-operating with the agency, but they should not be used as a political weapon to settle scores with the opposition.

Why is the percentage culture on the rise if Naveen babu has zero tolerance for corruption?

It was not the Opposition, but the chief minister who started a fight against this. We have even arrested our own leaders. Take the case of former Deogarh MLA Sanjeev Pradhan. There is corruption everywhere in India. Odisha is also a part of this country. One needs to have the right mindset to eradicate it.
As the party gears up for another election, it seems to be raking up the Mahanadi issue...

We never linked the Mahanadi issue with the panchayat election. Everyone should agree to the point that the Mahanadi is the lifeline of Odisha, thousands of people depend on it… 

You are the vice-president of the party. You had led a fact-finding team to Chhattisgarh on the Mahanadi issue. But why has the report not been made public?

Only the party knows why the report has not been made public. But I can say the state government has accepted many of its recommendations. Many newspapers have already published extracts of the report.
Farmer suicide is a major issue in west Odisha. Your government has failed to check it...

We are concerned about it, but it’s a national problem. It’s happening in BJP-ruled states as well. At the same time, I can say that we are demanding a hike in minimum support price for our farmers. The Centre has not paid heed to our demand. We had even sought an appointment with the Prime Minister, but did not get it. 

Picture by Ashwinee Pati