By D N Singh
Since the death of the legendary leader of India, Biju Patnaik, there could be little doubt that, it was his son Naveen Patnaik deserved to occupy his father’s place, not merely as the latter’s descendant but, he qualified for that in the collective imagination of the people of the state.
And he has proved that, it was not only that he relished being in power, but through the delivery which played the catalyst role in the longevity of his credibility. Which he still continues.
It is still fresh in memory of many when the pall of gloom descended on Odisha politics after Biju babu’s demise. It struck hard both his admirers and adversaries. Not only in Odisha but the late leader had played the role of a celebrated arbiter in the Indian politics as a king maker.
The void was huge one and when Naveen Patnaik tried to step into his father’s shoes, the enormity of the challenge was stupendous. It was in 1997, the air in the state politics was calm and unintelligible.
Naveen Patnaik then had a task ahead. Was he aware that, he had to rewrite a history and prepare for an aura in Odisha and Indian politics to match up to his great father.
With a blend of his father’s fame and popularity, he was made to be the centre stone for the formation of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Leaders of that time stood by him in a majority barring a few but the way Patnaik conducted himself it did not take long for him to become a rallying point.
After a stint as a member of the parliament from Aska, the suave and soft spoken leader took over the reins of the state as the chief minister thus pulverizing the main opposition, the Congress. Although it was an alliance government of the BJD and the Bharatiya Janata Party, but the unison encountered hurdles post the Kandhmal communal conflagration.
End Of A Piggy Back Ride
It was a roller coaster ride that crashed after 2009 when the BJD and the BJP alliance came to an end. Yet, Naveen Patnaik reigned over the political scenario and the BJP suffered a setback in the number game. From 36 legislators in 2004 it crashed down to just 6 members in the House. Which the critics described that, how the BJP had a piggy back ride on the BJD from the day of the alliance.
In subsequent phases Naveen-led BJD and the leader himself, could succeed to have his fingers on the pulses of the people of Odisha, authoritatively, to say to the posterity that he occupies his place among them not by the arithmetic but by his empathy for them.
That doesn’t mean he was without any obstacles or any contrarian view emerging from within the party when a few members, those who had been flourishing under his aura, deserted him midway, pouring out vitriolic in public domain.
A Poise That Stuns His Enemies
But Patnaik was far less revengeful. With his pitch-perfect talent to weather such odds, he allowed the developments to die down with time. And it did happen.
In the 2019 general elections the BJD under Naveen had a tryst with yet another headwind and that too from none other than the NDA under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But a composed Naveen Patnaik demonstrated his doggedness and political dexterity taking on the entire challenge alone with a stoic poise and emerged on the political horizon of the state, transforming the animus with the NDA to a bonhomie. His party today undisputedly enjoys a stand apart status among all the states under non-BJP rule.
About the Author:
DN Singh is a Bhubaneswar-based senior journalist.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with the www.prameyanews.com