Odyssey of Odisha with 14 Chief Ministers


Even as the incumbent Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik is the longest-serving one in the state’s history with occupying the seat for 17 years, let’s have a look of the other chief ministers of the state and get a brief account of Odisha’s history attached to them.

Since 1946, Odisha has had 14 chief ministers. The first was Harekrushna Mahatab of the Indian National Congress.

Dr Harekrushna Mahatab

Harekrushna Mahatab (21 November 1899 – 2 January 1987) was a leader of the Indian National Congress, a notable figure in the Indian independence movement and the Chief Minister of Odisha from 1946 to 1950 and again from 1956 to 1961. He was popularly known by the sobriquet “Utkal Keshari”.

Mahtab was born at Agarpada village in Bhadrak district of Odisha. He was born to Krushna Charan Das and Tohapha Debi in an aristocratic Khandayat family. After passing his matriculation examination from Bhadrak High School, he joined Ravenshaw College, Cuttack but left his studies in 1921 to join the independence movement.

Mahatab was the first Chief Minister of Odisha from 23 April 1946 to 12 May 1950. He was the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry from 1950 to 1952. He became the secretary general of the Congress Parliamentary Party in 1952. He was the Governor of Bombay from 1955 to 1956.

After resigning from Governorship in 1956, he again became the Chief Minister of Odisha from 1956 to 1960. During his tenures as the Chief Minister, he played significant role in the merger and integration of former princely states, shifting of the capital from Cuttack to Bhubaneshwar and the sanction and construction of the multi-purpose Hirakud Dam Project. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1962 and became the vice-president of the Indian National Congress in 1966. In 1966, he resigned from the Congress and led the Orissa Jana Congress. He was elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly in 1967, 1971 and 1974. He was imprisoned in 1976 for protesting against the emergency.

Nabakrushna Choudhury

Nabakrushna Choudhuri (born on 23 November 1901 at Cuttack, Odisha, India – died 1984) was an Indian politician and activist. He served as Chief Minister of the Indian state of Odisha. He dwelt from a landlord family of Kherasa village of Jagatsinghpur District, Odisha. His father, Gokulananda Choudhuri was a great advocate. Nabakrushna had shown unusual talents during his childhood. He was very fond of games and sports. Noticing that he was devoting more time to games and sports, his father engaged a private tutor for him. Subsequently he studied at the Peary Mohan Academy and completed his studies leading to Matriculation Examination at the age of 14. He had to wait for two years and eventually passed the examination with a good division.

Odisha became a separate province on the first of April 1936. In 1937, elections to the Odisha Legislative Assembly were held for the first time. Nabababu contested against Rai Bahadur Chintamani Acharya from the Tirtal-Ersama constituency and won the election with an overwhelming majority. This was his entry into active politics.

As an MLA, he was always sensitive to, and concerned about, the interests of the poor and downtrodden in Odisha. All the farmers of Odisha united themselves to fight against the landlords who were exploiting them. The journal ‘Sarathi’ had closed down. With Nabababu’s efforts another journal titled ‘Krusak’ was published containing news and features on the problems of the farmers and labourers together with those of the ‘Praja Andolan’ movement in the princely States.

Biju Patnaik

Bijayananda Patnaik, popularly known as Biju Patnaik (5 March 1916 – 17 April 1997) was an Indian politician and 3rd Chief Minister of Odisha for two terms.

Biju Patnaik was born on 5 March 1916 to Lakshminarayan and Ashalata Patnaik. His parents belong to G.Nuagan, Bellaguntha, Ganjam district, around 80 km from Bramhapur. He was educated at Ravenshaw College in Odisha but due to his interest in aviation he dropped out and trained as a pilot. Patnaik flew with private airlines but at the start of the Second World War he joined the Royal Indian Air Force eventually becoming head of air transport command. While in service he began an interest in nationalist politics and used air force transports to deliver what was seen as subversive literature to Indian troops.

Biju Patnaik met with Jawaharlal Nehru during his participation in Indian freedom struggle and became one of his trusted friends. Nehru viewed the freedom struggle of the Indonesian people as parallel to that of India, and viewed Indonesia as a potential ally. When the Dutch attempted to quell Indonesian independence on 21 July 1947, President Sukarno ordered Sjahrir, the former prime minister of Indonesia, to leave the country to attend the first Inter-Asia Conference, organised by Nehru, in July 1947 and to foment international public opinion against the Dutch. Sjahrir was unable to leave as the Dutch controlled the Indonesian sea and air routes. Nehru asked Biju Patnaik, who was adventurous and an expert pilot, to rescue Sjahrir. Biju Patnaik and his wife flew to Java and brought Sultan Sjahrir out on a Dakota reaching India via Singapore on 24 July 1947. For this act of bravery, Patnaik was given honorary citizenship in Indonesia and awarded the ‘Bhoomi Putra’, the highest Indonesian award, rarely granted to a foreigner. In 1996, when Indonesia was celebrating its 50th Independence Day, Biju Patnaik was awarded the highest national award, the ‘Bintang Jasa Utama’.

Patnaik’s political ideals were centred in socialism and federalism. His strong advocacy for equal resources to all Indian states who needed such, made him a champion of his Oriya constituents.

In 1946 Patnaik was elected uncontested to the Odisha Legislative Assembly from North Cuttack constituency. In 1952 and 1957 he won from Jagannath Prasad and Surada, respectively. In 1961 he assumed the presidency of the state Congress. Under his leadership, the Congress Party won 82 of 140 seats and Patnaik (representing Chowdwar constituency) became the chief minister of Odisha on 23 June 1961 and remained in the position until 2 October 1963 when he resigned from the post under the Kamaraj Plan to revitalise the Congress party. He was the Chief Minister of Odisha at the age of 45.

Patnaik was close to Indira Gandhi who took over the Congress Party in 1967. However, they clashed in 1969 over the Presidential election. He left the Congress and formed a regional party—the Utkal Congress. In the 1971 assembly poll, his party did reasonably well. Patnaik then re-established contact with his old friend Jayaprakash Narayan and plunged into the JP movement as it picked up momentum in 1974. When the Emergency was declared in 1975, Biju Patnaik was one of the first to be arrested along with other opposition leaders.

He was released in 1977. Later, in the same year, he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time from Kendrapara and became Union minister for steel and mines in both the Morarji Desai and the Charan Singh governments until 1979. He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha again in 1980 and 1984 from Kendrapara as Janata Party candidate despite the Congress wave in 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s death. With the Congress defeat in 1989, he bounced back into the political limelight. However, after playing a key behind-the-scenes role in manoeuvring V. P. Singh to the Prime Minister’s post, he again chose to go back to Odisha, and prepared for the assembly election. In 1990 state assembly election, the Janata Dal received a thumping majority (two third assembly seats) which saw Biju Patnaik being the Chief Minister of Odisha for the second time until 1995.

He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996 from Cuttack and Aska constituencies as a Janata Dal candidate. He retained the latter until his death on 17 April 1997 of cardio-respiratory failure.

In 1992, Bijayananda Patnaik left this quote for the people of Odisha;

“In my dream of the 21st century for the State, I would have young men and women who put the interest of the State before them. They will have pride in themselves, confidence in themselves. They will not be at anybody’s mercy, except their own selves. By their brains, intelligence and capacity, they will recapture the history of Kalinga.”

Biju Patnaik was married to Gyan Patnaik. Biju Patnaik’s younger son, Naveen Patnaik, is the current Chief Minister of Odisha. His daughter, Gita Mehta, is an English writer. His elder son Prem Patnaik is a Delhi based industrialist.

Biren Mitra

Biren Mitra (26 November 1917 – 25 May 1978) was an Indian politician, a leader of the Indian National Congress and the Chief Minister of Odisha from 2 October 1963 to 21 February 1965.

Sadashiva Tripathy

Sadashiva Tripathy (1910–1980) was an Indian politician, a leader of the Indian National Congress political party and the Chief Minister of Odisha from 21 February 1965 to 8 March 1967.

Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo

Maharaja Sir Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo KCIE (31 March 1912 – 23 February 1975) was an Indian politician and the last ruler of the princely state of Patna in Odisha before Indian independence in 1947. He was the President of the Ganatantra Parishad political party from 1950 to 1962 and the President of the Odisha state unit of the Swatantra Party after its merger with the Ganatantra Parishad in 1962. He was the Chief Minister of Orissa from 1967 to 1971.

Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo was born to Raja Aditya Pratap Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Seraikela and Rani Padmini Kumari Devi. He was adopted by Maharaja Prithwiraj Singh Deo of Patna state. He studied in the Mayo College in Ajmer and the St. Columbia’s College in Hazaribagh. He became the Maharaja of Patna state in 1924 and assumed full powers in 1933. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) in the 1946 New Year Honours list. In 1948, the princely state of Patna was merged with the Union of India.

In 1951, Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo was elected to the 1st Lok Sabha from Kalahandi Bolangir constituency in Odisha as a Ganatantra Parishad candidate.

In 1957, he was elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly from Titlagarh constituency and became the leader of the opposition in the Odisha Legislative Assembly. After the fall of the minority Congress government, the Ganatantra Parishad formed a coalition government with the Congress on 22 May 1959. Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo became the finance minister in this government. The coalition government collapsed on 21 February 1961 and the President’s rule was imposed. In 1961, he was re-elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly from Kantabanji constituency.

In 1967, he was re-elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly from Bolangir constituency and became the Chief Minister of Odisha on 8 March 1967. He led a coalition government formed by the Swatantra Party and the Orissa Jana Congress of Harekrushna Mahatab. He resigned from the office on 9 January 1971 and on 11 January 1971 the President’s rule was imposed. In 1971 and 1974, he was re-elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly from the same constituency.

Biswanath Das 

Biswanath Das (March 8, 1889 – June 2, 1984) was an Indian politician. He was the Prime Minister of Odisha Province of British India1937–39, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh 1962–67 and later the Chief Minister of Odisha 1971–72.

Biswanath Das was a member of the legislative council of Madras Province from 1921 to 1930. After the separation of Odisha on April 1, 1936 he became its Prime Minister on July 19, 1937. Biswanath Das became a member of the Constituent Assembly of India in 1946. After the Odisha Vidhan Sabha election in 1971, the Utkal Congress, the Swatantra Party and the Jharkhand Party formed a United Front and he became the Chief Minister of the United Front government. He was in office from April 3, 1971 to June 14, 1972.

Nandini Satpathy

Nandini Satpathy (9 June 1931 – 4 August 2006) was an Indian politician and author. She was the Chief Minister of Odisha from June 1972 to December 1976.

Satpathy was born on 9 June 1931 and grew up in Pithapur, Cuttack, India. She was the eldest daughter of Kalindi Charan Panigrahi; Satpathy’s uncle Bhagavati Charan Panigrahi founded the Odisha branch of the Communist Party of India.

While at Ravenshaw College pursuing her Master of Arts in Odia, she got involved with the Communist Party’s student wing, the Student Federation. In 1951, a student protest movement began in Odisha against rising college education costs, it later turned into a national youth movement. Satpathy was a leader of this movement, police lathi-charged the protestors and Nandini Satpathy was severely injured in the sane. She was jailed, along with many others. In the jail, she met Devendra Satpathy, another Student Federation member and the man who she later married. (He was later elected for two terms to the lower house from Dhenkanal.

In 1962, the Congress party was dominant in Orissa; the Orissa State Legislative Assembly of 140 members had over 80 from the Congress party. At a national level, there was a movement to have more women representatives in the Indian Parliament. The Assembly elected Satpathy (then president of the Women’s Forum) to the upper house of India’s Parliament, where she served two terms. After Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister of India in 1966, Satpathy became a Minister attached to the Prime Minister, with her specific portfolio being the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Satpathy returned to Odisha in 1972, due to vacancies caused by Biju Patnaik and others departing from the Congress party, and became the Chief Minister of Odisha. During the Emergency of 25 June 1975 – 21 March 1977, she imprisoned a number of notable individuals, including Nabakrusna Choudhuri and Rama Devi; however, Odisha had the least number of prominent individuals jailed during the Emergency, and Satpathy otherwise attempted to resist Indira Gandhi’s policies during the Emergency.

Satpathy left office in December 1976. During the general election in 1977, she was part of a group of protesters led by Jagjivan Ram, which became the Congress for Democracy party.

Satpathy returned to the Congress party in 1989, on the request of Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress party was unpopular in Odisha as a whole, due to its two term miss rule (primarily under Janaki Ballabh Patnaik as Chief Minister). She was elected as a member of the State Legislative Assembly from Gondia and remained in the Assembly until 2000, when she decided to retire from politics; she did not contest the 2000 elections. She was not influential in and was critical of the Odisha branch of the Congress party.

Her younger out of the two sons Tathagata Satpathy is a Biju Janata Dal politician and the editor of a daily newspaper — Dharitri.

Binayak Acharya 

Binayak Acharya (30 August 1918 – 11 December 1983) was an Indian politician and the Chief Minister of Odisha of Odisha from 29 December 1976 to 30 April 1977.

Nilamani Routray

Nilamani Routray (24 May 1920 – 4 October 2004) was the Chief Minister of Odisha from 1977 to 1980. He served as the Health and Family Welfare Minister and then Forest and Environment Minister in the Union Government led by V.P. Singh. He died on 4 October 2004.

Nilamani Routray was a founder of the Odisha unit of All India Students Federation. He was the president of the Odisha state unit of the Indian National Congress from 1967 to 1970. Later he joined the Utkal Congress and became its president. Subsequently, he switched over to the Bharatiya Lok Dal and became the president of its state unit. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989.

Janaki Ballabh Patnaik

Janaki Ballabh Patnaik; (3 January 1927 – 21 April 2015) was the Governor of Assam since 2009. A leader of the Indian National Congress, he was Chief Minister of Odisha from 1980 to 1989 and again from 1995 to 1999, holding that post for the longest time on record before Naveen Patnaik.

After the completion of his early education at Khurda High School, he passed his B.A. degree in Sanskrit from the Utkal University in 1947 and passed his M.A. degree in Political Science from the Banaras Hindu University in 1949. In 1950, he became the President of the Odisha state unit of the youth wing of the Congress. In 1980, he became the Union Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation and Labour. The construction of New Jagannath Sadak (Chandanpur of Puri district to Sarankul of Nayagarh district) is one of his major contributions to the transportation and tourism of Odisha.

Hemananda Biswal 

Hemananda Biswal (born 1 December 1939) is a leader of the Indian National Congress, and a former Chief Minister of Odisha, who was in office from 7 December 1989 to 5 March 1990 and again from 6 December 1999 to 5 March 2000; and was again elected as an MP from Sundergarh in 2009.He is the first Tribal chief Minister of Odisha.

Giridhar Gamang 

Giridhar Gamang (born 8 April 1943) is a leader of the BJP and a former Chief Minister of Odisha. He was born at Dibirisingi village in Rayagada district of Odisha. In 1972, he was elected for the first time to the 5th Lok Sabha from Koraput. Subsequently, he was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2004. He was the Chief Minister of Odisha from 17 February 1999 to 6 December 1999.

His wife, Hema Gamang, won from Koraput constituency in the 1999 elections to the 13th Lok Sabha, while he was serving as the Chief Minister of Odisha.

In 1998, while he was a member of the 12th parliament, he was asked to become Chief Minister of Odissa. Two months later, there was a vote-of-confidence against the BJP government and Giridhar still went to the parliament to vote against the government as he was from congress (despite the fact that he had to quit either being CM or the MP office and become MLA, within 6 months). The government lost power by 1 vote (269–270) and it is widely believed that if Giridhar had abstained, the speaker, G. M. C. Balayogi would have used his vote to save the government in case of tie. The fall of government resulted in another fresh general elections in May 1999.

He lost the Koraput Lok Sabha seat for the first time in the 2009 elections to Jayaram Pangi of the Biju Janata Dal.

Naveen Patnaik

Naveen Patnaik (born 16 October 1946) is the current and 14th Chief Minister of Odisha. The supremo of the Biju Janata Dal, is also a writer and has published four books.

Patnaik was born in Cuttack in a Karan family from Biju Patnaik, former Chief Minister of Odisha, and his brother Himanshu Patnaik. Patnaik was educated at the prestigious Welham Boys’ School in Dehradun, and later The Doon School. After that he attended Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, and he qualified for Bachelor of Arts degree. Patnaik is a writer and had for most part of his youth been away from both politics and Odisha, but after his father Biju Patnaik’s demise, he entered politics in 1997 and a year later founded the Biju Janata Dal, named after Biju Patnaik, which won the state election with the BJP as its alliance and formed the government in which Patnaik became Chief Minister. His mild mannerism, “stand against corruption” and “pro-poor policies” have resulted in the development of a huge support base in Odisha, which has voted him to power in the last four consecutive terms. Like his father, he has managed to control the bureaucracy and transformed it into a machine for the development of the state.

After the death of his father Biju Patnaik, leader of the Janata Dal, he was elected as a member to the 11th Lok Sabha in the by-election from Aska Parliamentary Constituency in Odisha, India. He was a member of the Consultative Committee of Ministry of Steel & Mines, Member of Standing Committee on Commerce, and Member Library Committee of Parliament. A year later the Janta Dal split and Patnaik founded the Biju Janta Dal which in alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) performed well and Patnaik was selected the Union Minister for Mines in the cabinet of AB Vajpayee.

In 2000 Assembly election, BJD won the majority of seats in alliance with the BJP in the Odisha Assembly elections, Patnaik resigned from the Union cabinet and was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Odisha.

BJP led NDA lost the general elections in 2004, however the coalition led by Naveen Patnaik emerged victorious in the state legislative elections and he continued as the Chief Minister.During this tenure, the friction between the ruling partners was getting more and more apparent, especially after the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in the Kandhamal district of Odisha in 2007–2008 and also active participation of Bajrang Dal in the riots that hit Kandhamal region.

In the run-up to the polls for the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly of Odisha elections in 2009, BJD walked out of the NDA after severing ties with the BJP and joined the nascent Third Front constituted mainly by the Left Front and few regional parties. He did it after severely criticising BJP’s involvement in Kandhamal anti-Christian riots during 2007. The BJD won a resounding victory in both the Vidhan Sabha (State Assembly) as well as the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, winning 14 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats and 103 of the 147 assembly seats and was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Odisha on 21 May 2009 for the third consecutive term.

Patnaik won a huge victory in both the 2014 Indian General Elections and the Legislative Assembly of Odisha elections in 2014. Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal secured 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats of Odisha and 117 of the 147 Odisha Vidhan Sabha seats.

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