Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 21:
It has to be the Interview of the Year in Odisha. Former Finance minister Prafulla Ghadai’s explosive interview to ‘Ravivar Sambad’ on Sunday has caused the biggest upheaval in the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the recent past. The mere excerpts published on the front page of ‘Sambad’ on Saturday was serious enough for the party to summarily expel the veteran leader from the party even before the full version appeared on Sunday.
Q: You were not given the party ticket to contest the Assembly elections earlier this year. Do you think it was a ploy to keep you out of politics?
PG: The party supremo decides allotment of tickets. Persons who are close to him and manage the party affairs might have convinced him to deprive me of a ticket to contest the elections. The selection of party candidate was decided by a coterie, which thought their clout would increase if we were not given tickets. But will our clout desert us if we don’t remain in a post? This was the reason I was first removed from the ministry and later deprived of a party ticket. Danny (his son and Sukinda MLA Pritiranjan Ghadai) was shifted from Korei to Sukinda in the hope that it would be easier to defeat him in the new seat. A mining contractor was deliberately fielded against him in Sukinda.
Q: You have remained silent on the chit fund and land scams in the state. What is the reason?
PG: These things have certainly tarnished the image of Naveen Babu’s government and his party. But as we know, the party supremo never compromises on issues of corruption or violation of rules and always takes action to maintain transparency in his party and the government. I am sure he would act once corruption is proved in the charges levelled of late. His image is the image of the party and the government and I have no doubt that he would not allow his image to be tarnished.
Q: There are some leaders who were axed from your party even before the allegations against them were established. Why did the same not happen in this case?
PG: Yes. There has been a delay in this case. But since there are allegations of the involvement of multiple leaders in these scams, he may act after the probe report comes out. After all, our party has completed just four months of its new tenure. May be that is why there is a need to be a little cautious and take everything into consideration in this case.
Q: Is it a fact that no action is being taken due to the involvement of several party leaders in these scams?
PG: Yes, that is precisely what is causing the delay in taking action. He (Naveen) does not do anything on his own and those who are close to him are not giving the right advice to him. What advice can thieves give after all? The Pandian-Fandian group is here to loot and they would loot. What can be said on this?
Q: Why Naveen Babu is not replacing these advisors?
PG: He never does anything on his own and usually depends on someone or the other. Earlier, he depended on Pyari Babu, but was a bit active and used to communicate. Of late, he keeps mostly to himself and has become physically and mentally dull. He is completely in the grip of some traders.
Q: Is there any way to mend Odisha politics?
PG: The BJP can become a viable opposition if it makes sincere efforts to expand its base in the state. How can a state be run without an Opposition party? They are all afraid. KV Singhdeo is afraid of demanding the resignation of the chief minister. They are all shying away from saying this strongly. He is splitting the opposition parties. With help from Ahmed Patel, he has been able to change the Congress president in the state. The Congress is completely in his grip. As for the BJP, he has kept Dharmendra Pradhan on his side to ensure that the party does not grow in the state. Has Pradhan ever uttered a word against the state government? There is bitter infighting in the state BJP. The party is doing badly in the by-elections in the country. What is the performance of Amit Shah? It’s all about money politics by which the ruling parties are able to silence the opposition. Here in Odisha, BJD leader Kalpataru Das is a strong believer of money politics. Due to his buy-all-with-money policy, he became a minister within no time, became the vice president of the party, was later elected as Rajya Sabha member, made his son an MLA and the daughter of his attendant an MP. The Congress had deliberately fielded the weakest possible candidates in Jajpur, Dharmasala and Korei constituencies as the party leadership had received huge money from the ruling party. PCC president Jayadev Jena had fielded the weakest candidates in most of the constituencies and sold out 12 party tickets.
Q: Why the BJP had no alliance in the Assembly elections?
PG: It would have been better had the BJP forged alliance with other parties. The BJD did not make it happen. The BJD supremo is well-versed in the art of breaking parties and opposition, taking revenge, keeping party colleagues in a tight leash and clipping the wings of the senior party leaders to keep his chair intact. This is why he has managed to hold on to his chair till date. A person does not understand anything or say anything. And yet, they name is Chief Minister. He is continuing.
Q: You were an active member of the party and held the post of vice president and Finance minister. However, you remained silent after you were asked to step down? Were you afraid of someone?
PG: The head of the BJD and the government is Naveen Patnaik. He appoints someone on whom he reposes his faith and trust as a minister. For some reason, he lost his faith on us and did not want us anymore. Some people close to him convinced him and we became a victim.
Q: How could such person or persons became so influential and powerful in a couple of years?
PG: There is one group which is doing everything in the party and Kalpataru is part of the group.
Q: Why Naveen Babu, who has been extremely sensitive to any misdeed in the party earlier, has remained silent on the involvement of several party leaders in the chit fund and land scams in the state?
PG: Why should he be worried? Action will be taken against those who are involved in these scams. He has banished many people in the past, but it has had no effect on him and his party. He has thrown out many senior leaders, but has always been reelected with bigger margins. He always gives priority to the people, not the individual.
Q: Does Naveen think that it is his last term so there is no need to remove anyone from the party?
PG: This cannot be said right now. One has to see whether he is taking action against the erring party leaders after he receives the reports of the investigation. Even now, Naveen Babu is in the grip of a coterie called KPPP (Kalpataru-Pandian-Prabhakaran-Pinkai Mmishra). Former chief secretary Bijay Patnaik and senior IPS officer Arun Sarangi are also part of this coterie.
Q: There is no CBI, Crime Branch for these tainted leaders.
PG: The CBI has already sent two notices to a sitting minister, who is yet to meet the investigating team. The CBI has sought permission from the Speaker who in turn has sent the file on the concerned minister to the chief minister and the latter is sitting over it. This is how they are cooperating with the CBI. The CBI has directed those it has already interrogated not to leave the state. But one of them, the son of an influential leader, has left for New Delhi without its knowledge.
Q: Has he gone for anticipatory bail?
PG: These people are now ready to confront the CBI.
Q: How transparent and corruption-free is Naveen Babu’s government?
PG: Those who are involved in the scam would be defamed and would lose their credibility if they are proved guilty. If Naveen Babu takes action against them, his clean image would remain intact. Let us wait for the inquiry report. We are still hopeful that the chief minister would never compromise with corruption and would uphold transparency in party and government.
Q: In the light of the injustice done to you in the recent past which you have tolerated so far, how would you describe internal democracy in the BJD?
PG: Where is democracy in this party? This is a one-man party. There is no meeting, no discussion. But as long as we are in the party, is it possible to tell everything?
Q: Former Panchayati Raj minister and present Rajya Sabha member Kalpataru Das has alleged that some people have targeted his family. Are the deeds of Kalpataru and his son wrong, or they have been maligned unnecessarily?
PG: All I can say on this is that there is no smoke without a fire. Instead of pointing fingers at others, they should analyse their activity. Party members should not indulge in any activity that would tarnish the image of the party. If the image of the BJD and the government has been tarnished, it is due to the misdeeds of some party leaders.
Q: It is said you are behind the Kalpataru family’s current problems?
PG: I never think ill of others or do harm to anybody. A person who has hurt others always thinks they might have hurt him. I have had a long political career and don’t want to continue for long. I should not hold anyone responsible for my loss. Whatever has happened has happened with the signature of Naveen Patnaik though I am still unable to fathom the reason for it. All I can say is that those who were close to Pyari Babu are now the closest to Naveen Babu.
Q: But Kalpataru was not close to Pyari Babu?
PG: Kalpataru had earlier tried his best to become a minister but Pyari Babu did not allow it since he knew Kalpataru was a “wheeler-dealer” and would lead the party and government to ruin. Those like Kalpataru who were vying for ministerial berths concocted a story that Pyari Babu was out to dethrone Naveen Patnaik.
Q: There is speculation that you are planning to launch a vernacular daily called “Danshana”. What made you think of launching a newspaper all of a sudden?
PG: There is absolutely no truth in it. It is completely baseless and fabricated. In my opinion, there are already enough newspapers in Odisha and there is no room for more. There are not enough readers to sustain more newspapers. I do not have the kind of money that is needed to run a newspaper either.
Q: What do you think of your future in the BJD?
PG: There is a time limit for any work. I have played a long innings in my political career. All said and done, the BJD has provided a strong and stable government in the state for which has made several developmental works possible. I have remained in the BJD and will continue to remain in the party.
Q: Heard that you are joining the BJP very soon?
PG: No, not at all. This is baseless. I have no intention of jumping to any other party at this age.
Q: How would you describe the weakness and failure of BJD?
PG: The party needs to invite more political suggestions and hold discussions at regular intervals.
Q: Most of our political leaders have religious gurus and belief in rituals and occult practices. Who is your guru?
PG: I am a Communist. My faith lies with the people for whom I work.
Q: With what intention did you try to change the idol of Goddess Biraja of Jajpur?
PG: The media had played a game at that time. The fact remains that there are two idols of the Goddess Biraja. As per the rituals, the first idol, visible to the devotees, was taken out and placed behind the other idol of the Goddess which is now worshipped. No one has taken the idol away from the temple.