Sharad Pawar, Prakash Karat or Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee? All three leaders could be considered to lead the country as the next Prime Minister, BJD boss Naveen Patnaik told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN's Devil’s Advocate programme.
Patnaik, who has ruled out support to a BJP-led or a Congress-led government at the Centre, said he was open to an alliance led by the NCP chief or CPI(M). Asked if he would support a government led by Pawar, he said: “It might be considered.”
At the same time, Patnaik added, the BJD is not against supporting a government led by a CPI(M) Prime Minister. On whether he would support Karat or Bhattacharjee if the Left chooses either of them for the top post, he said: “That too could be considered because at present we have seat-adjustments with the CPI, CPI-M and NCP.”
On whom he would prefer — the CPI(M) general secretary or the Bengal Chief Minister — he said: “I am quite open on that matter.” Would both be acceptable? “Yes, indeed”.
Speaking about his state, the Orissa Chief Minister added: “Let us put names aside. I have said it earlier and I repeat that the BJD’s interest is in supporting a government, which will fulfill the just demand of my state. Orissa has been neglected for ages by the Central Government.”
Kandhamal was breaking point
Patnaik said the “unease” with his former ally BJP “began with the Kandhamal riots...It was disturbing and horrifying”. When asked if Kandhamal was the breaking pint, he said: “Yes, indeed.”
On why it took nine years to know the BJP, he said: “For nine years, the BJP had many secular allies like Farooq Abdullah, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar etc. In Orissa, in the first eight years there was no serious communal problem. Kandhamal changed the scenario.”
Replying to a question on the Left’s strident criticism of his handling of the riots, he said: “At that time (when the riots took place), it was a worrying and heated situation. At the spur of the moment, something could have been said. Time moves, history changes.”
The CM said “it was unbelievable” when he was compared to his Gujarat counterpart after the Kandhamal episode.
Seat sharing: BJP unrealistic
Patnaik denied he had given any “humiliating” seat-sharing offer to the BJP. “The offer was pretty realistic. The BJP could not have afforded to stand from more number of seats.”
On getting support from new allies, he said: “Once the alliance broke down, everything moved very swiftly. I’ve a number of friends in all parties. There is nothing surreptitious about finding new allies.”