Naveen Patnaik, Biju Janata Dal chief and Odisha Chief Minister is all set to return to power for the fifth consecutive term. BJD swept the state with its candidates leading in 112 of the state’s 146 seats.
Patnaik’s rise from a reluctant politician to one of the most successful CMs of any Indian state is a phenomenal journey of perseverance.
Strong Grip On State Since 2000
When Biju Patnaik, the then CM of Odisha died, grief-stricken people of the state came out of in huge numbers, enough to throng a 65 km road between Bhubaneshwar and Puri. As the search for the successor began, it ended on Biju Patnaik’s 51-year-old son Naveen. Unaccustomed to the ways of politics, Naveen Patnaik took over the legacy of his father.
The sympathy wave was running high. Encashing the same, Naveen Patnaik formed the Biju Patnaik Dal (BJD). BJD, in alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance performed well. In 2000 Assembly elections, BJD won the majority of seats in the Odisha Assembly elections.
Patnaik then resigned from the Union Cabinet and was sworn in as the CM of Odisha.
For a state which was among the first ones to be carved out on the basis of the language, Patnaik has held the bastion for nearly 20 years without proficiency in Odia.
Patnaik’s policies have seemed to resonate with the old and the marginalised. In addition to his image as a man with minimalistic needs, his schemes which have touched the rural and disadvantaged have seemed to work in his favour. He is viewed as a crusader of pro-people and populistic schemes. Under his leadership, Odisha has also won the distinction of becoming the second fastest developing economy in the country.
His reputation of being intolerant to dishonesty and corruption too has swayed voters in his favour. In a popular instance, he removed a dozen IAS officers viewed as dishonest. He reportedly told them, “You are no more required.”
Author of the book, ‘Naveen Patnaik’, Ruben Banerjee wrote, “The key to Naveen’s success is that even though he has indulged in political machinations and subterfuge, he has largely come out of them without blemish, skillfully sidestepping scrutiny and deflecting criticism. He is still viewed by many as innocent and incapable of the vileness of an ordinary politician. And when something goes horribly wrong somewhere in the state, there is always someone else who shoulders the blame, sparing Naveen any taint. That he is single, soft-spoken and always deferential has helped in nurturing Naveen’s image.”