The inevitable happened on Monday amidst much fanfare in Naveen Niwas when the 5T Chairman and former IAS officer V. Karthikeyan Pandian joined the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Kartik Purnima formally.
This was long expected and, therefore, did not have any element of surprise. Evidently, a few front ranking BJD law makers jostled to be alongside him as he was seen seeking the blessings of the Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik. Pandian, the most talked about person in the state after Patnaik himself was all smiles and conveyed all that he had really travelled many a mile to be in this enviable position from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) school where he studied to be a potential long distance runner for the country.
It’s a different matter that he had to forgo his dream and moved out of SAI school after his father once made an observation which was laced with sarcasm and rightly made a course correction in life to be where he is today. Well, that is his past.
For the past few years, has his name not been synonymous with BJD? He was the most powerful bureaucrat and was in full control of the party at the same time, of course, with the consent of the Chief Minister. He has been calling the shots much before the 2019 elections. Therefore, what is new about formally joining the party?
Continuous criticism of his activity for allegedly acting as a BJD man while being in the service and flouting service rules thereby led him to seek a voluntary retirement from IAS. Nobody is yet sure why he chucked a lucrative job. Many attribute the decision to his ambition to be the successor to Naveen, while the discerning say it is his extreme loyalty to his master.
He has served the chief minister impeccably since 2006 and not a single move by him has caused Patnaik any embarrassment. On the other hand, Patnaik has all along stood by Pandian despite strident criticism that the former has handed over the administration and decision making on a platter to the latter.
Ever since Naveen Patnaik came to power almost 24 years ago, his dependance on the bureaucrats is well known. His ministers, legislators or MPs hardly enjoyed any power. With Pandian at the helm, ministers and legislators became more powerless and the old guards in the party were systematically weeded out in favour of new faces who turned out to be voiceless. This mantra has worked wonderfully for Naveen and has hardly caused him any headache or hassles. Earlier it was Pyari Mohan Mahapatra. Now it is Pandian who the BJD supremo trusts as his man friday.
Another interesting aspect of the unfolding drama in BJD is that a lot of fortune telling and speculations by analysts have assumed silly proportions forcing people to indulge in what is called ‘bazar gossip’. Such things seem to have no basis though. Whether Pandian will take a plunge into electoral politics or will continue as Chief Minister’s closest aide controlling the administration and the party needs to be watched. But, his childhood dream to become a longdistance runner does not seem to have been dashed. Is he the new marathon man of Odisha?