By Srimoy Kar
The recent unsavory ink attack on the 5T Secretary, V.K Pandian, who is also the Private Secretary to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, at Sakhigopal while arriving at a meeting venue has spurred a statewide discussion. Whether it was the handiwork of the rival political parties or `orchestrated’ by Biju Janata Dal are the points still being deliberated with great enthusiasm, the issue has been put to rest with the protagonist of the act reportedly admitting to have committed the nuisance because his grievances were not addressed by the administration. Motives are also being attributed to the police letting this man off after a stern warning in less than 24 hours. Let’s not get stuck with such trivialities but delve into the broader picture.
Ink attack is one of the most condemnable forms of protest in a democracy no matter how much hatred one has for the other. Some might have derived vicarious pleasure in seeing Mr. Pandian humiliated but one has to dissect the outcome of it. Was he really humiliated or the attempt boomeranged? The incident received condemnation from all spheres including from the political parties who do not waste a minute to criticize the bureaucrat. What did the man behind the heroics achieve? A momentary publicity may be! I would like to take you back to the visuals of this incident. Ink sprayed on Mr. Pandian’s face, he wiped it off and smilingly moved on as if nothing has happened. The elan and dignity with which he handled the attack on him demonstrated his maturity. He was completely unruffled.
I am reminded of a political episode that happened, perhaps, in 1992. Late Biju Patnaik was the Chief Minister of the State and 10-time Congress Member of Parliament from Nawarangpur, late Khagapati Pradhani wrote a letter to the former drawing his attention to how the Janata Party workers sought to disrupt the latter’s meeting by hurling rotten eggs and tomatoes. Pradhani demanded stringent action against Biju Babu’s partymen. In reply, which was short and crisp, Biju Babu wrote back saying that in public life one should be prepared for bouquets as well as brickbats. One may say that this allusion is inappropriate since Mr. Pandian is neither in public life nor a politician. But he is `perceived’ as one because he tours across the state with the mandate of his Chief Minister. But, as a public servant, is he not bound to carry out the orders and instructions of the Chief Minister?
It is true that Mr. Pandian has become controversial of late because of his `chopper stop run’ across the state, reviewing the progress of government programmes at the district level, making announcements about new projects and the budgetary provisions there in. Accusations are flying thick and fast about his `acting as a politician’ being a bureaucrat. Critics even went as far as saying that the Chief Minister has become a `pawn’ in the hands of the 5T Secretary who has `hijacked’ the administration and Naveen Babu is `helpless’. Nothing can be more bogus than this. First to attack him was BJP MP, Mrs Aparajita Sarangi, a former bureaucrat, but her allegations were rebutted when Naveen Babu himself in a recorded phone message conveyed to the public that he himself has assigned Mr. Pandian the task to meet the people and address their problems. This was not enough to silence his adversaries.
A great hue and cry were generated recently when the ruling party’s Khandapara Legislator, Mr. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, who is also the Editor of the frontline Odia newspaper `Sambad’, in a recent article questioned the rationale behind the alleged expenditure of Rs. 300 crore for the 5T Secretary’s whirlwind helicopter tours besides advising his own party not to neglect some of the core issues that may spell doom. A few believed that the article encouraged the ink attack because many ruling party legislators and workers are unhappy with the style of functioning of the party bosses. It may be a coincidence but such thoughts seem to have no basis though.
No doubt, the 5T Secretary is a very hard working, efficient and loyal administrator. Even his worst critics in the bureaucracy admit this. He has been able to win the trust of the Chief Minister by virtue of his meticulousness, prompt action, capability to deliver results and handling critical situations. Every ruler has a man Friday. His extreme proximity to Naveen Babu has made him controversial. Is that his fault? It is an equally unacceptable allegation that he is the `de facto Chief Minister’. Those who know Mr. Patnaik can vouch for his razor-sharp mental faculty and excellent political acumen. He can’t be forced to do anything. Otherwise, a political green horn like him in 1998 would not have been ruling the state for 23 years on the trot. It is, therefore, unlikely that his Private Secretary would be doing anything without the consent and approval of his Boss. So, what is this fuss all about?
The author is former Resident Editor of New Indian Express. He can be contacted at [email protected]
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com)