"Odisha Congress is correcting its mistakes"

Party's state chief Jayadev Jena questions Naveenís development claims

ajay

Ajay Singh | April 4, 2014




Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Jayadev Jena is a harried man these days. He is assigned the task of revitalsing his party which is not keen to revive and recover. On Friday he came out with a manifesto full of usual rhetoric and platitudes in a function held at the PCC headquarters. In a brief conversation, he, like a hardboiled politician that he is, displayed his never-say-die spirit:

Q: You seem to have given up much before the fight. Your party is hardly in the fray.
A: This is incorrect. We are in the fray all over the state. You may find the influence of Naveen Patnaik but in rural areas the Congress is quite strong. We are mobilising support and let me say that 15-year anti-incumbency would be Naveen's undoing.

Q: But don’t you think your party makes a poor impression when your leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh deserts it and joins the BJD?
A: Bhupinder Singh was always hand in glove with Naveen Patnaik. For the past several years, he had been acting like a BJD man in the Congress. It is good that the party is purged of such people. Moreover, he does not have much influence.

Q: Then why did you retain such a man as the leader of opposition in Odisha?
A:
That is a mistake we made. But now we are quick to realise it and make course correction.

Q: Naveen Patnaik appears to be very popular. How will you counter him?
A:
This is a wrong impression. He is the most hated person because of his arrogant style of functioning and his government's involvement in corruption cases worth over Rs 1 lakh crore. His government is involved in a mining scam worth over Rs 60,000 crore while chit fund scams are also running into nearly Rs 20,000 crore. There are many other scams in which his regime's involvement is evident.

Q: But in the past 15 years, the state has prospered in terms of infrastructure development. How will you counter that argument?
A:
This is the prosperity of a few top industrialists and people close to the regime. In reality, Odisha is impoverished more than ever. The state government scheme of providing rice at Re 1 per kg [this is a central scheme] has ruined work culture and agriculture in the state. Education and health care have become inaccessible to a large section of people. These are not signs of development.

Q: What are your handicaps?
A:
We are not able to match money power of Naveen Patnaik.

Q: Why? You have a government at the centre that has been accused of even bigger scams. You ruled Odisha for decades in the past.
A:
(With a sheepish smile) No, we do not have resources. Let me tell you that we still have not given a penny to candidates; they are fighting on their own.

Q: Are you optimist?
A:
Of course, I am. We will ensure that deposits of Naveen's candidates are forfeited in most of the seats this time.

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