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December 20, 1997


The Rediff Interview/Dilip Ray

'Biju was killed by people like Srikant Jena'

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi

The late Orissa chief minister, Biju Patnaik's son Naveen split the Janata Dal in the state last week. But the chief architect of the rebellion, a direct fallout of the growing disenchantment with the party's central leadership, is former Union minister of state for food processing Dilip Ray.

Joining the newly formed Biju Janata Dal, the former minister lashed out against the JD leaders at the Centre. In an exclusive interview to Tara Shankar Sahay, Ray says the JD leaders are a selfish bunch only interested in perpetuating 'self-rule'.

He says that the late JD stalwart Biju Patnaik was 'stabbed in the back' by 'renegades' like Srikant Jena, who have brought about the sorry state of affairs in the state party unit. Excerpts:

What forced you to resign from the Gujral government and join the Biju Janata Dal?

The so-called original Janata Dal has showed no signs of fighting the Congress in Orissa. It was always making compromises with the Congress.

I warned the JD central leadership that certain basic steps were necessary if the party wanted to fight the Congress. Even Naveen Patnaik had told JD leaders like Sharad Yadav and Srikant Jena that nothing was being done to fight the Congress.

When the JD leadership just did not react to our entreaties, we knew that the time has come to part ways.

Were you close to the late Biju Patnaik?

That would be an understatement. I am very close, I was like a son to Biju Babu. I have known his family very well for the last 25 years.

Are you former Lok Sabha speaker Rabi Ray's son?

No, but I am former Orissa chief minister Nilmani Routray's grandson.

Media reports suggest that you very unhappy with the JD leadership. Can you name these leaders?

Yes, I can. They are former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, JD president Sharad Yadav, Union Human Resource Development Minister S R Bommai and Union Minister of State for External Affairs Kamla Sinha.... None of them paid any heed to our advice.

Do you agree with the United Front leaders's claims that the combine's unity cannot be broken?

I wish it was. But, if leaders keep talking about unity and do not change their behaviour, they would be proved wrong.

What is your party's election slogan?

'Biju killers on one side, Biju followers on one side.'

Can you explain?

Today, we are telling the people that Biju Babu's killers are on one side and his followers on the other.

Who are Biju Patnaik's killers?

People like Srikant Jena who colluded with the Congress to launch fraudulent cases against Biju Babu. Srikant Jena is a renegade. You know, Biju Babu treated Srikant Jena like a son and the latter repaid his debt by stabbing Biju Babu in the back.

The people of Orissa will never forgive Srikant Jena.

Your party has formed an electoral alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

You know, the BJP is not communal. That is why Biju Babu had spoken to BJP leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan has come to my house and we have discussed an electoral understanding.

Deve Gowda talked about initiating action against me. But, with Biju Babu behind me, I was not bothered.

But if you were hobnobbing with BJP leaders, don't you think the JD leadership was justified in taking action against you?

I must tell you that even Biju Babu had warned the JD's central leadership that, since it was not doing anything to fight the Congress, leaders like him would take their own initiative. So you can see that our discussions with the BJP leaders was not something to be surprised about.

Were you warned by Deve Gowda against talking to the BJP leaders?

Nobody can warn me, least of all the central JD leaders. But, as I said earlier, I had Biju Babu's support. So I did not give a damn about any other JD leader.

How will the BJD perform in the elections?

I told you the people of Orissa are very sentimental about Biju Babu's immense contribution to national policies. People are bound to vote for his memory, his legacy and his party.

But look at what these JD leaders did. They did not bestow on him the Bharat Ratna which he deserved so much. They only paid lip-service to him and quietly sabotaged all his plans. That is why the BJD has struck an alliance with the BJP.

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