As Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik is swearing in as Chief Minister of Odisha today, for a fifth term, he would face a triple challenge this time; Cyclone Fani, jobs, and the BJP.
Patnaik, a reluctant politician who jumped from New York high society into Odisha’s political minefield as his father Biju Patnaik’s legatee, has transformed the state during his tenure over the last 19 years. He has emerged as a shrewd politician with such a grip over the state that a random vox pop asking people on the street to name other prominent leaders yields almost no results. Naveen has a track record of overcoming all odds and successfully administering challenges in past. However this fifth term will be tough for him as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Emerged as the main opposition in Odisha with a super majority at the centre.
Once in the news mainly for hunger, poverty and starvation deaths, Odisha is now one of the most steadily growing states in the country. In last 19 years of Naveen reign hunger, poverty and starvation deaths are numbered, though not eradicated.
Unlike his predecessors, Naveen is very careful about his image. In past 19 years he has been transformed into the most favoured personality in Odisha. Brand Naveen is the only USP for BJD’s success.
Patnaik is often criticized by opponents for not knowing Odia, the official language of the state. However in an interview with NDTV during the recent elections, Naveen said that he could speak Odia fluently.
In a recent Odia movie, though the production is not up to the mark, Naveen played his original character for a few seconds where the protagonist loved him like a God and treated Naveen’s house as a temple. In real life too Naveen Patnaik was not less than a God for lakhs of Odias for his populist schemes and simple life. This is the secret behind his consistent electoral run.
Naveen is now the only unputdownable leader in Odisha.
Two Set of Clothes
Despite his four previous terms as Odisha’s chief minister, people still get swayed by Naveen Patnaik, perceived to be a simple person having just two set of clothes and wears slippers. The public perception of Naveen Patnaik’s conduct, his integrity has remained untainted over the years. In Indian politics this is valued and that is what has appealed to the Odia voters.
Man of Few Words
His speeches that Naveen Patnaik delivers in his typical halting Odia are for not more than five to six minutes. He also makes sure to address his audience in a very formal manner, like using the term ‘apana’, meant for those held in the highest esteem, instead of the lesser formal ‘tume’ or the more intimate ‘tu’. By remaining brief in his speeches, he gives a talking point for discussion. He also talks less when meeting people. Unlike other leaders, Naveen does not over-promise and that reduces the level of dissatisfaction among people. Also, his rhetoric is shorter than his work.
Women Just Love Him
Naveen Patnaik’s relationship with the common man, especially women, has confounded critics and Opposition. Mission Shakti, a flagship programme of the Odisha government launched in 2001 has now expanded to include 70 lakh women. Being first in the country, he announced reservation of 33% seats for women in the Lok Sabha. Women voters have rooted for him due to a plethora of women welfare schemes and self-help groups. The distribution of smartphones to women adds more loyalty.
Odisha has won the Krishi Karman Award four times during Naveen Patnaik reign for outstanding performance in food grain production. Last year Odisha won Commendation Award from Union Ministry of Agriculture and farmers’ Welfare. To woo farmers just months before the elections Naveen launches a government scheme KALIA for overall development of farmers.
Being a highly natural calamity prone state, each year Odisha faces multiple disasters. However Naveen Patnaik led government has successfully managed to reduce human causalities. Many national and international bodies highlighted Odisha’s efforts as a model for disaster management programmes globally. UN appreciated Odisha for its disaster management model during Phailin and Fani. Even opponents including the Narendra Modi led union government hailed Naveen’s ability to confront natural disasters.
Naveen Patnaik takes populist scheme route to win hearts in the state. In 2015, he launched Aahar, a scheme to provide meals in 5 rupees to need people in urban area. There are 157 Aahar centres in 73 urban local bodies feeding 60,000 people every day. Another popular scheme is KALIA, which provides 10,000 to 25,000 rupees financial support to farmers. Naveen Patnaik has schemes almost for everybody in Odisha. Barely one can say, from a baby yet to be born to a deceased fellow, most of the poor and lower middle class families became beneficiary of multiple populists schemes in Odisha. Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, Odisha’s own health scheme is said to be benefiting 70 lakh families.
There Is No Alternative. Yes, Naveen Patnaik has no alternative in the state. Like Modi in centre, Naveen has diminished all his rivals in the state being the one and only favoured leader of the people. Even Modi magic failed in the state and the recently concluded elections have given a strong message of TINA factor in Odisha.