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‘No desire to play a national role’, says Odisha CM

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Nov 4:

Notwithstanding his unabashed championing of the aborted Third Front cause in the run up to the last general elections, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today claimed that he has no ‘desire to play a national role’.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik answering questions from New Indian Express Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla at the Third Odisha Literary Festival  in Bhubaneswar on Monday (Pic: Biswaranjan Mishra)
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik answering questions from New Indian Express Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla at the Third Odisha Literary Festival in Bhubaneswar on Monday
(Pic: Biswaranjan Mishra)

Answering questions from New Indian Express Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla at the inaugural session of the Third Odisha Literary Festival at the Mayfair Convention hall here today, Patnaik said; “There is so much work still to be done in Odisha.”

Asked what makes him tick for so long in Odisha politics, the man who led his party to its fourth successive win in May this year, was modesty personified. “It is the developmental and welfare schemes the BJD government has launched.” Quizzed further by Chawla if his own image had not contributed to the successive victories, Patnaik replied with a modest; “I don’t think so.”

Celebrated television anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, whose new book “2014: The Election That Changed India” was unveiled by the Chief Minister on the occasion, paid him a left-handed compliment when he read out a passage from his book that described Patnaik as a man ‘who loves his scotch and his cigar.”

If Patnaik felt embarrassed, he did not show it.

The first session – “Political literature: Does the kiss and tell model work?” – that followed the inaugural session saw a lively and hugely entertaining spat between Sardesai and Madhu Kishwar, founder editor of ‘Manushi’, with the former accusing the latter of ‘deifying’ Modi in her long speech.

Naveen Patnaik  launching Rajdeep Sardesai's book (pic- Biswaranjan Mishra)
Naveen Patnaik launching Rajdeep Sardesai’s book (pic- Biswaranjan Mishra)
Madhu Kishwar had earlier taken the first shot counting Rajdeep among those who ‘demonised’ Modi in her speech.

Done with Kishwar, Rajdeep, who appeared to be in a particularly combative mood, then turned his attention to Natwar Singh asking him why he did not write the book – “One Life is Not Enough” – when he was part of the ‘durbar’. He even drew an analogy with Sachin Tendulkar’s just published autobiography, in which he has accused former coach Greg Chappel of being a ‘ringmaster’ out to create dissensions within the team, to make his point. “I respect Sourav Ganguly more than Sachin because he spoke against Chappel when he was still playing,” the Headlines Today editor said.

Natwar could do no more than come up with a feeble “If I had written it while I was still in the party, no one would have published it for fear of being hounded.”

Curiously, the only sentence spoken on the subject for the session – “Kiss and Tell” writing – was by Kishwar, who said MO Mathai’s book on Nehru was the only book in the category that she knows of.

While Rajdeep expounded his theory of ‘telling a story’, Kishwar embarked on a prolonged harangue on how Modi had been vilified all along. On his part, Natwar’s intervention was not half as interesting as the chapter on the Gandhis in his supposedly ‘Kiss and Tell’ book.

Prabhu Chawla, the moderator of the session, had a tough time playing referee to the warring panelists and at the same time sticking to the time slot.