No Need For Physical Meets, Naveen Patnaik Runs The Show Over Phone: BJD’s Pratap Deb

Sandeep Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Defending Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for not attending his office at Lok Seva Bhawan or the state Assembly here, Biju Janata Dal spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb said the former’s health was top priority and he need not physically meet people.

Pratap Keshari Deb

“For us, the CM’s health is most important. Especially in times of COVID it is not essential that he meets people,” he told Odisha Bytes in an exclusive interview recently, while admitting that Naveen no longer meets even ministers and party leaders. “We used to meet him before the COVID pandemic started (in March 2020), but we no longer do it. Whenever required we take time and talk to him over the phone,” he added.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik at state-level Republic Day function in Bhubaneswar on January 22, 2022

Deb’s reactions come amid increasing Opposition criticism of Naveen not physically attending his office and the state legislature although he visited different districts in recent months to launch the state-sponsored Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) smart health cards ahead of the three-tier panchayat elections. In December, the ruling dispensation drew flak when Naveen inaugurated a state-run restaurant here while the Winter Session of Assembly was on but did not show up in the House. On January 26, possibly to dispel doubts and rumours about his health, Naveen attended the state-level Republic Day parade here alongside Governor Ganeshi Lal. He also went around the garden at Lok Seva Bhawan (earlier referred to as the Secretariat), but did not step foot in his office in the building’s Third Floor, thereby raising many eyebrows.

Deb, in turn, brushed aside the criticism and said, “When needed the CM attends Assembly sittings and official meetings in virtual mode. Technology makes it possible. So what is the harm in using it? He also addresses party meetings in virtual mode.”

The Aul MLA further attempted to defend the regional party’s claim of maintaining equidistance from the BJP and the Congress though its growing bonhomie, particularly after the 2019 elections, with the saffron outfit has frequently invited attention. The BJD has supported the Narendra Modi government on different issues and voted in favour of various bills. “Just because BJP is our rival in the state doesn’t mean we will oppose them in Delhi. Our aim is to protect Odisha’s interests and we formulate our stand accordingly. This is realpolitik,” Deb noted.

Watch the full interview:

Sandeep Mishra

Group Editor

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