War of words erupts between Modi, Patnaik

Akhilesh Sharma / NDTV

Bhubaneshwar: Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi dared Naveen Patnaik to name all the districts of Odisha and their district headquarters without referring to any notes as a test of his knowledge of a state he has governed since 2000, the chief minister has hit back and reminded the PM of all his forgotten promises.

The Biju Janata Dal chief – who was seen as close to PM Modi, had supported the BJP in crucial votes in Parliament, and was reportedly also in talks for an alliance with the party – also accused the PM of ignoring the “brave sons of Odisha” for the Bharat Ratna, including his father and former chief minister Biju Patnaik, as well as the Odia language.

In a video statement on Saturday, Mr Patnaik said he was asked how much he knew about Odisha and then turned the question on its head and asked the Prime Minister how much he remembered about the state and the promises he had made to it.

“Even though Odia is a classical language, you forgot about it. You allotted ₹ 1,000 crore to Sanskrit but zero to Odia. You have forgotten about Odissi music too. I sent two proposals to grant classical status to Odissi music, but you rejected both of them. There are so many brave sons of Odisha, some of whom you spoke about today. Don’t any of them deserve the Bharat Ratna, including the great son of Odisha, Biju Patnaik,” he asked.

The chief minister accused the Prime Minister of forgetting his promise to the farmers of the state to double the minimum support price and said he should have kept the people of Odisha in mind and built the coastal highway – which has been in the works for a while – but forgot about that too.

Coal is Odisha’s natural wealth, Mr Patnaik said, and claimed the PM had “forgotten” to increase the royalty paid for that in 10 years.

“Remembering Odisha only during elections will not help. Do you remember the promises you had made in 2014 and 2019? The people of Odisha remember your promise to reduce prices of LPG, petrol and diesel, to create 2 crore jobs, to provide mobile connectivity to all, to reduce and waive GST. The people of the state have not forgotten any of these,” he said.

Reacting to the PM’s claim that Odisha, where Assembly elections and Lok Sabha elections will begin on Monday, will get a BJP chief minister on June 10, the BJD chief said nothing would happen on that date or even in 10 years.

“The BJP can’t win the hearts of the people of Odisha. With Lord Jagannath’s blessings and the love of the people of Odisha, the BJD will form the government in Odisha for the sixth time,” he said.

Addressing a rally in Odisha’s Kandhamal earlier in the day, the PM had issued the dare and also said he has a strong emotional connection with the state.

“I want to challenge ‘Naveen Babu’ as he has been the Chief Minister for so long. Can he name the districts of Odisha and their respective capitals without seeing them on paper. If the chief minister cannot name the districts of the state, will he know your pain,” the Prime Minister asked.

Post a comment“Odisha offers me immense love and support. I will repay every ounce of your trust by selflessly serving the country,” he said.


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