Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhanspeaks on issues pertaining to Odisha and Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik’s ‘opportunistic’ politics.Looking back, was it politic to give such a build-up to the Bijepur Assembly byelection, seeing that the party lost?We will fight as hard as the Opposition is fighting the polls. In this bypoll, we were able to consolidate the party vote, we could measure our strength. Naveen Patnaik’s strength is brute power and misuse of government machinery. This will not be able to hold during the general elections as could be done in bypolls. The writing on the wall in Odisha is for a big change. That is very evident from the campaigns that we are running and the response of the public.Chief minister Naveen Patnaik says he is equidistant from the BJP and the Opposition; he has supported Prime Minister Modi on simultaneous polls but opposed him on Ayushman Bharat. How do you view his blow hot, blow cold vibe?Naveen Patnaik is one of the most opportunistic politicians of the country, in the way that he picks and chooses issues to oppose and support. He is not being equidistant but displaying equi-convenience. Odisha has had, since 2004, Assembly polls together with the general elections, so it costs him nothing to support the move for simultaneous polls. If you are so aligned to Prime Minister Modi’s thinking, then do see that his philosophy is to build Team India.Mr. Patnaik’s has objected to Central review of all major social sector projects, whether it is on the question of aspirational districts, health or even Swachh Bharat. He stood on the shoulders of Vajpayeejiand Advanijito stabilise himself. It has been his strategy to speak of equidistance and confuse everyone, and to manage the Opposition in this way. In 2009, he broke his alliance with us, and managed the Congress for four months and stayed in power. In 2014, he took the Leader of the Opposition to his side. So his so-called equidistance has nothing to do with ideology.You are supporting the demand to designate the song Bande Utkala Janani as the State anthem. Isn’t this a move to encourage sub-regional nationalism?In 1936, Odisha was the first State to be declared a linguistic one, after an agitation for a greater Odisha. We have been singing this song since then. Why did we raise this issue? Naveen Patnaik has a tendency to raise issues that he has nothing to do with or has no jurisdiction over, like registering hockey as the national game. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is a regional party. The Odisha Assembly had passed a resolution asking that it be made a State anthem, in 2006, under the BJD regime. Why wasn’t it done?You have attacked the BJP-led Chhattisgarh government over the Mahanadi dispute — does that make for a conflict of interest?Wasn’t there a conflict of interest over the dispute over Narmada water in the past? Won’t Karnataka BJP and Tamil Nadu BJP speak about the interests of their State unit when it comes to the Cauvery river dispute? Every State unit, regardless of the party, has a narrative and commitment to fulfil and reflect the aspirations of that State; for that we took a stand and we will not allow Odisha’s interests to be compromised.The BJD has failed on the irrigation front in Odisha. As Prime Minister Modi pointed out last month, the State hasn’t been able to save even one millimetre of water from running off into the sea. To hide this failure, the BJD government has picked a fight with Chhattisgarh, and the latter on its part did selective interpretations of the rules. They (Chhattisgarh) have made a few dams upriver and which they say are for irrigation purposes of under 2,000 hectares but are also being deployed for industrial use and do not therefore, have to go to the Central Water Commission (CWC). The law of the land is grey on what comes under the CWC and only deals with irrigation. We have protested that.BJD leader Baijayant Panda recently quit the party. Will he be joining the BJP?Any right-thinking person cannot stay with the BJD as it is functioning today. Anybody who believes in the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP ideology is welcome.What do you make of recent attempts at forging an Opposition unity against the BJP?Even in the 2014 polls the same forces were ranged against us. These parties want to polarise society and come to power but the mood in the country has changed. Polls since 2014 prove Prime Minister Modi’s popularity is undiminished.