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Naveen Patnaik – From an unexpected political scion to a statesman

Naveen Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: With continued phenomenal victory of the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has almost suppressed all political parties in the State.

The outcome can rightly be viewed as a tectonic shift in the State’s political landscape.

Amidst the euphoria in the BJD camp, despair among other national and regional parties, the ruling party is celebrating its 20th birthday with utmost brute power in holy city Puri today.

What has come through the last 20 years is the mesmerizing magic of Naveen Patnaik’s charisma with a record of longest-time Chief Minister in the country along with Pawan Kumar Chamling, Chief Minister of Sikkim and Manik Sarkar, Chief Minister of Tripura.

Besides, the regional party has won 117 Assembly seats out of 147 and 20 Lok Sabha seats out of 21, adding a new record to its fold.

Under the leadership of Naveen, BJD has performed outstandingly in five Lok Sabha elections and four Assembly elections.

Naveen, who had never hogged political limelight till he fought a by-election from Aska Parliamentary Constituency in Odisha and was elected as a member to the 11th Lok Sabha after demise of his father Biju Patnaik in 1997, has emerged as a benevolent mass leader, who is strong, capable of taking risky decisions and shouldering the responsibility of its fallout independently in Odisha politics.

He is a leader who seems to be keen on delivering and making a difference in the lives of 4.5 crore Odia people.

Naveen Patnaik

Naveen’s early days

Naveen Patnaik was born to late Biju Patnaik, a well-known figure in the movement for Indian independence from Britain and politician in Odisha who served two terms (1961–62 and 1990–95) as the Chief Minister of Odisha, on 16 October 1946 in Cuttack city.

Though born in Odisha, he was brought up in New Delhi. He was away from Odisha and politics during most of his adult life.

Naveen Patnaik, an alumni of Dehradun’s prestigious Doon School, was three-years junior to Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India. After completing a B.A. degree from the University of Delhi in 1967, Naveen choose to become a writer. For many years he lived mostly abroad in the United States and elsewhere in his world as a bachelor.

The Chief Minister has authored three non-fiction books – A Second Paradise: Indian Courtly Life 1590–1947 (1985), A Desert Kingdom: The Rajputs of Bikaner (1990), and The Garden of Life: An Introduction to the Healing Plants of India (1993) – before entering into politics.

He returned from the US following his father’s death and joined politics in 1997, then 50 years old.

Soon after, he built a special sphere for himself in Odisha politics as a non-Congress leader.

Naveen has been the Chief Minister of Odisha since 2000 and is known for making governance transparent and corruption free.

Political personality

Naveen Patnaik is said an oddity in Indian politics, who always keeps himself away from the limelight and wants a minimum of fuss whenever ventures out to a public function.

The leader still does not speak Odia fluently but gets myriads of applaud making seriously boring influent speeches that are mercifully short and that is what called Naveen charisma.

Naveen who was keenly interested in art and culture and was living a life of luxury in the charmed circle of the rich and famous including Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis who edited two of his books – A Second Paradise: Indian Country Life 1590-1947 and The Garden of Life: An Introduction to the Healing Plants of India, was always inspired by a deep sense of social justice.

His life of luxury abroad suddenly reduced to a life of austerity wearing only simple white kurta-pyjamas.

The man who had never witnessed poverty came with anti-poverty programmes with a ‘Mr Clean’ image by sacking ministers and bureaucrats even at the whiff of a scandal not fearing for the political consequences.

For the first time, he asked bureaucrats to work free hand to run the state and encouraged them to come up with innovative solutions.

Naveen is perceived by people as a strong, risky taking and disciplined political personality and someone deeply committed to the development of Odisha.

He is the only second generation successful political leader in the country who had never come under the shadow of politics till turned 50, but has been in power since he entered into politics in 1997.

Naveen Patnaik

National appearance

Naveen Patnaik came to national political limelight in 2012 and established his national presence by projecting and supporting NCP leader and former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma in the presidential race.

Patnaik and his then Tamil Nadu counterpart Jayalalithaa had projected Sangma as the presidential candidate despite the apparent reluctance of the NCP leader’s own party, following which rumours were doing rounds that Naveen may lead the third front.

Political jolt

In 2012 he came up with a new avatar ousting his political adviser, Pyarimohan Mohatpatra who had tried to engineer a coup by fomenting an internal revolt, which firmly established his mystique and he won 117 Assembly seats out of 147 and 20 Lok Sabha seats out of 21 in 2014 general elections.

Naveen Patnaik

A successful mass leader

Since long he has gone out of his father’s shadow and has stood on his own by taking stringent action against corrupt politicians in his party and a number of pro poor and social welfare schemes.

During his tenure Odisha, which was in a terrible financial state is now on a very sound financial footing.

The State is now totally self-sufficient in rice production and even exporting which was depended on Haryana and Punjab for rice. For the past three years, Odisha has been winning major agriculture prizes with farmers income doubled.

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