The Statesman And His Able General

Bhubaneswar: In state Secretariat camera-persons try their best get visuals of V Karthikeyan Pandian, the private secretary of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. But here in this rare picture he has stood rock solid behind Patnaik.

The camaraderie between the two has created a new benchmark in terms of unprecedented political success, praiseworthy social engineering and a legacy of transparent administration in Odisha.

The political acumen of Mr. Pandian graced with the towering image of Brand Naveen has simply outclassed the opponents and the juggernaut of BJD continues to March with disdain.

Rarely seen in public and heard even less, the 2000-batch IAS officer from a family of modest means in Tamil Nadu is thought to be the eyes and ears of the Odisha chief minister. Patnaik has always relied on bureaucrats more than ministers and MLAs to run the affairs of the state, but no official has ever been the subject of intense animated discussions as Pandian has been. Occupying a room at the end of a long corridor on the chief minister’s floor of the state secretariat, Pandian’s office is the farthest from that of the chief minister. But he is the closest to Patnaik. He sits at every meeting and does most of the talking with the normally reticent chief minister staying quiet.

Naveen Patnaik with his secretary VK Pandiyan

A fitness freak and a long-distance runner, Pandian starts his day at 4.30 am and almost instantly immerses himself in planning and plotting Patnaik’s moves, sending out directives on the relatively more secure Telegram messaging service. Since becoming Patnaik’s aide in 2011, he has come to control access to the chief minister and now decides who Patnaik meets or what he hears. That he is not keeping well and is less agile has forced Patnaik to lean more on Pandian. No wonder politicians, including cabinet ministers, queue up before Pandian’s room for an audience. Even bureaucrats, many of them senior to Pandian, are reverential towards him, with a former DGP going as far as to publicly bow before Pandian every time they met.

Sharing this rare photo of the powerful duo, on Facebook, BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra wrote,

A rare photo of Shri.Naveen Patnaik and Shri.V. Karthikeyan Pandian, the Statesman and his able General. The smiles epitomize a serene and heartfelt moment. Their Dedication, Determination and Devotion has transformed Odisha and it blessed Naveen Babu with a record fifth term.

Though no conclusive proof has yet emerged, Pandian’s influence today is said to extend to media management, and even the affairs of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), with party spokespersons taking their briefings from him.

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About the Author

Subhransu Panda
Subhransu Panda, founder and editor of www.odishastory.com, is an author and journalist. After working 10 years as a journalist in Odisha's leading media houses, both print and electronics, he started Odisha Story in 2016. He has 6 Odia books to his credit including 2 novels. He is also heading Odisha's leading publishing house PEN IN Books.