Naveen Patnaik, 72, worked an exercise bike as he rubbished any impression that he is anything less than fit. "One of our ex-MPs spread the rumour for political gains," the Odisha Chief Minister said, working out in an all-black gym look as he spoke to NDTV on the parliamentary and assembly polls in his state.
By "ex-MP", did he mean Jay Panda, who quit the party last year? "I am," said Naveen Patnaik, without hesitation.
Why would he spread such a rumour? The four-time chief minister replied: "I think for his personal political ambitions."
Naveen Patnaik also posted an exercise video on social media last week to get back at "rumours" that he was tired and no longer physically up to leading the Odisha government. He was seen jogging, stretching and walking at his bungalow in Bhubaneswar in the video posted by his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) along with a message. The video ends with him saying he is "getting ready to fight for the people of Odisha."
The Chief Minister says that is part of his routine in the morning, not posing for the sake of cameras.
"I do these exercises every morning," Mr Patnaik said firmly. These include "cycling, weightlifting, leg exercises, all of that", he added.
On "rumours" about his health, he accused Jay Panda of trying to position himself as an alternative to take on the Chief Minister.
Mr Patnaik said exercising and workouts were an essential part of his mornings before a bath and the start of his work-day. Jay Panda, 55, once one of his most trusted partymen and spokespersons, quit the BJD in May last year and the parting was on most acrid terms.
In a letter to Mr Patnaik, Jay Panda made repeated references to "Biju uncle" or Biju Patnaik, the father of Naveen Patnaik.
For months before that, the party had stopped short of expelling the four-time lawmaker as he made his resentment clear in increasingly public outbursts.
Mr Patnaik, one of Odisha's longest serving chief ministers, denied his charge that the government was being run by remote control and proxy. "It is nonsensical," he said. Who is in charge? "The government, ministers and me," he said.
Shutting down talk about ill-health keeping him from functioning properly, the Chief Minister said: "Not at all, I'm fighting fit."
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