‘Name all districts of Odisha’: PM Modi's challenge to Naveen Patnaik

Modi addressed election meetings in western Odisha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a public meeting in Bargarh | PTI Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a public meeting in Bargarh | PTI

In his second phase of campaigning for the BJP in Odisha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday came down heavily on his erstwhile parammitra (dear friend) and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik with a shrewd intention of piercing into the charisma of the latter who had successfully kept the anti-incumbency at bay in the state despite remaining the chief minister for five consecutive terms.

Modi asked the electorate of western districts if ‘Naveen Babu’ could name all the districts of Odisha and their ‘capitals’ (district headquarters) without seeing them on paper. Speaking at Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhamal, the prime minister said: “I want to challenge Naveen Babu as he has been the CM for such a long, to name the districts of Odisha and their respective capitals without seeing them on paper. If the CM can not name the districts of the state, will he know your pain?”

Modi accused Patnaik of being oblivious to people’s issues. “People are angry with Naveen Patnaik because he is not aware of their issues. Can you leave your kids’ future up to him?,” he asked.

Noting that Patnaik is contesting from a second seat in Kantabanji of Bolangir district, Modi said people should ask the chief minister to name ten villages in that constituency. “He won’t be able to say it,” the prime minister quipped.

Modi addressed two more meetings in Bolangir and Bargarh. The prime minister said he had felt a lack of trust by the state government in the capabilities of the people, and added that such mistrust was stifling Odisha’s development potential.

Modi also talked about the state’s vast tourism potential and its significance in the economic landscape. He termed the upcoming elections as a pivotal moment for Odisha’s development trajectory.

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

Before Saturday’s rallies, Modi had taken to X, saying: “It is clear that Odisha will create history in these elections!” He had also shared pictures of his show at Bhubaneswar on Friday evening.

Accusing the BJD government of being disconnected from people, Modi claimed that “a deep emotional connection” has developed between him and the people of Odisha despite the language differences.

“Even during the era of Rajas and Maharajas there were some connections between rulers and common man. This is grossly lacking now in Odisha,” he alleged.

The prime minister also trained his guns at Tamil Nadu-born former IAS officer V.K. Pandian who has now emerged as a BJD leader and is going across the state addressing party’s election rallies.

“Odisha’s administrative management has been outsourced and there is a super chief minister above the chief minister; a person who does not know about Odisha. Should the state go to his hands?,” Modi asked while addressing his rally at Bargarh. There has been speculation that Pandian is likely to succeed Patnaik in the party.

Modi said: “Odisha’s pride is in crisis; the BJP won’t allow Odisha to be mortgaged”. He reiterated that the BJP will come to power in the state and a person born in Odisha will become the chief minister.

During his Friday’s roadshow in Bhubaneswar, Modi had said: “We are committed to make the lotus bloom in Odisha. When I visited two-three places in Odisha, I saw such enthusiasm and passion which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Despite the language barrier, the people of Odisha are completely connected by heart. It seems Odisha is going to be a big turning point.”

In response to a question about BJP’s relation with the BJD, the PM said they had fought separately before and are still fighting a long term battle. Even if there is issue-based support in parliament, the struggle continues in the assembly as the government here does not realize the true culture and passion of Odia land, he said.

“The BJD government is not connected with common people. The BJP has tried to win the hopes and trust by maintaining relations with people,” he said.

Mentioning about some of the Centre’s projects implemented in the state, Modi said: “While our government has done extensive work, the BJD is totally detached from ground realities and is oblivious to people’s grievances. They have totally misunderstood the great culture and ethos of Odisha. No wonder Bhubaneswar and Odisha will support BJP this time in record numbers”.

Since Saturday marks the anniversary of 1998 Pokhran nuclear test by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Modi said the day is not only a testament to India’s emergence as a nuclear power, but also highlights the country’s ongoing growth and strengthening status as a global pioneer in technological innovations.

“Twenty-five years ago, on this day, Atalji’s government conducted nuclear tests in Pokhran, showcasing India’s strength to the world. While India demonstrated its potential, the Congress continues to sow fear by suggesting Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons,” Modi said at a rally in Phulbani in Kandhamal district.

“They (Congress) repeatedly try to frighten us and warn us about Pakistan’s atomic bomb. However, Pakistan is struggling to manage its own situation. They are even trying to sell their bombs, but no one wants to buy them because of their poor quality,” he said.

Odisha will have assembly and Lok Sabha elections in four phases from May 13 to June 1 with vote counting on June 4. The state has 21 Lok Sabha seats and 147 assembly constituencies. In 2019 election, the BJD had won 112 assembly seats and 12 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP, meanwhile, became the second party in the assembly by pushing the Congress to the third position. While BJP had won 23 assembly seats, the Congress had got only nine seats. In the Lok Sabha election, the BJP had got eight seats while the Congress one.

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