Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in an interview to NDTV, has rubbished allegations that he was not fully at the helm of affairs of his state. "I think the suggestion is ridiculous", he said, adding, "I am in charge as I always was".
Mr Patnaik, normally reclusive, agreed to a rare TV interview on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his party, the Biju Janata Dal or BJD. Under his watch, the BJD has won four successive terms in Odisha, but the BJP's improved performance in recent rural body elections has led to questions over that hegemony.
In a series of monosyllabic answers, Mr Patnaik, speaking from his residence in Bhubhaneshwar, sought to rebut that perception.
"I don't think it (the BJP 'wave') is going to have any effect in Odisha", he said.
Mr Patnaik's own colleague, the Lok Sabha MP Baijayant "Jay" Panda had written an article shortly after the rural body polls, criticising the BJD leadership, saying it was being run by "opportunists", and asking for the party to introspect.
"I think that's completely incorrect. It's quite baseless in fact", Mr Patnaik said, when asked about Mr Panda's assertions.
He also denied any possibility that the BJP was trying to wean away Mr Panda. "No, no, no. There's no fear of that", he said, adding "There are no divisions in the party."
He ruled out any alliance ahead of national and state elections. Odisha goes to the polls in 2019. "We remain equidistant from the BJP and the Congress", he said.
When asked to rate Prime Minister Modi, he said "As a PM people voted him in, full of promise. Let us see. There's still time to see what happens." -NDTV