Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik’s political journey so far has been a tell-tale one.
Bijayanand Patnaik, better known as Bijubabu, is certainly a tall man as far as his stature and historical background is concerned, apart from his physical construction. But Odisha is also gifted with many other sons of the soil who had immensely contributed to its formation and shaping up of the state to the present state.
However, Bijubabu has been able to steal all the limelight posthumously, eclipsing all-time veterans like Fakir Mohan Senapati, Madhusudan Das and Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati Narayan Deo, just to name a few.
Not for no reasons. Bijubabu was not only a tall man, but also happened to be the father of incumbent Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who has been ruling over the state for the last 19 years and also eyeing for a historic fifth term in an year’s time. When Patnaik Jr had set his foot in politics some 20 years ago, nobody in his wildest dream had thought that Navinbabu would survive thus far. After the demise of Bijubabu, fondly called as “Odia Sandha” or “Odia bull” by his admirers, many prominent political leaders of Odisha came together under one umbrella and floated the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). They roped in his younger son Naveen and asked him to appropriate his legacy. They were of the idea that Naveen being a novice, he would only be the façade garnering votes for them and they would be the real rulers from behind the scenes. That was not to be. Naveenbabu turned out to be made of tougher metal.
Slowly but steadily, he took over the reins of both the party and the government. He was not flamboyant, rash or crass in his style of handling things. He was calm and cool as cucumber, never reacted to situations the way his father used to do, maintained a safe and respectable distance from the media, thereby earning a clean but tough image for himself.
He treated everyone well but never trusted anyone, especially the veterans in his own party. He went on ticking them off one by one, who were his possible challengers. He not only ruled the state through the bureaucracy but also ran the party through it. Friends started turning into foes as realisation dawned on them that their dream of becoming proxy rulers has been shattered and Bijubabu’s boy had outsmarted them.
Patnaik Jr, however, handled every situation deftly, kicking out each one of them and winning over new ones. No one was indispensable for him. Not a single year has passed since he took over when he has not got rid of one or other leader in the party or bureaucrat in the government.
Even severing of BJD’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party came as a masterstroke. It seems he took a calculative risk and had done meticulous planning in weeding out a nagging Big Brother. He came out with flying colours, leaving the coalition partners nursing their wounds.
Prominent leaders like Vijay Mohapatra, who had helped him form the party, and Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the bureaucrat once labelled as “Super Chief Minister”, fell like nine pins when they tried to upstage Patnaik. Now, it’s the turn of party veterans Baijayant Panda and Damodar Rout to pay the price of daring to differ from the “Supremo”.
To be continued