JB Pattnaik: A Multifaceted Personality

JB Pattnaik: A Multifaceted Personality

With passing away of Janaki Ballabh (JB) Pattnaik, a scholar, literateur and statesman–all rolled into one, a void has been created not only in Odisha but also in the country. Three-time Chief Minister, Union Minister, PCC President, Governor, Chancellor of Tirupati Sanskrit University, Editor of Eastern Times and Prajatantra, founder of Paurusa, JB dominated the public life for three decades. Whether he was in power or without power he was always relevant and sought-after person. Truly, he had a multifaceted personality. Passing through vicissitudes of life he never gave into adversities and obstacles and did not fade away to oblivion. He was active till he breathed his last. He was a great fighter in the true sense of the word.

JB had a modest and humble beginning. Born in 1927 at Rameswar village in Khurda district, he plunged into the world of writing and politics from his student life. After higher education, he joined The Eastern Times, an English daily newspaper, as a sub-editor and by dint of journalistic acumen rose to be its Editor. He also shouldered the responsibility of being the Editor of Odia daily newspaper Prajatantra at a very younger age of 25 years. For his political ambition, he fell from the grace of his mentor Dr. Harekrishna Mahatab, as a result of which he was sacked by his employer. He founded Paurusa monthly magazine. The punch line of that magazine is “Daibayatan kule Janma, Madayatam cha Paurusam”, which means to be born in a high family is in the hands of God, but to venture and become successful is in the hands of the person. JB fructified this Sanskrit verse in his life. Without any political Godfather’s patronage, he became Union Minister thrice, first as a Deputy Minister, then a Minister of State and a Cabinet Minister under Indira Gandhi. He was the Chief Minister of Odisha for two terms from 1980 to 1989 and then again from 1995 to 1999. He was the President of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee four times.

He was the leader of opposition in the Odisha Assembly from 2004 to 2009. He was elected to Odisha Assembly five times and twice to the Lok Sabha. He served as Governor of Assam from 2009 to 2014. Till his last day he was the Chancellor of Tirupati National Sanskrit University.

It is said that some people hanker for power, name and fame, but there are some people, behind whom power name and fame run. JB belonged to second category. We cannot restrict his role in the four walls of Assembly, Parliament or Raj Bhawan, rather his presence was more remarkable in the realm of litrature, culture, language. He will be remembered by his journalism, literary creations and promotion of Sanskrit. He was a great visionary.

JB was an out and out Congressman. Though he was loyal to the political ideologies of Congress, his perception on hosts of topics like nationalism, ancient culture, history, heritage was quite different from his parent political party. His concepts were more akin to RSS-BJP school of thoughts, but in spite of this he had never left Congress or joined BJP. Of course, he was an admirer of RSS particularly of the late Baburao Paldhikar, who can be called the founder of RSS in Odisha. Two persons were instrumental in bringing JB into close contact of RSS. The first was the late Debendra Nath Mohanty, the former Editor of Rastradeep, who once served as News Editor of Prajatantra under JB. The other person is R.V. Rama Rao, a senior RSS Pracharak, who once saved JB from the wrath of flood affected people of Gunpur. JB had to suffer politically for his affinity with RSS. When he was the Chief Minister, one of the main allegations of dissident group against him was his RSS link. But he never bothered about this. His views on Ram Janmabhoomi, Ram Setu, promotion of Sanskrit, cow protection, Swadeshi were diametrically opposite to that of the Congress but he held and expressed his views freely and frankly, attracting ire of his high command. Once he wrote a brilliant piece on “Ideologies in Politics” in Organiser on the request of the then sub-editor of that weekly (presently Editor of Uday India) Shri Deepak Kumar Rath. His article was appreciated by all except his political masters. He was served a showcause notice by AICC to explain why he wrote for RSS-BJP magazine. But JB was least bothered. When RSS leader Baburao Paldhikar breathed his last, JB was perhaps the only Congressman who came to RSS office at Cuttack to pay respect to his favourite social worker. JB, belonging to a finest breed of statesman, is no more, making end of an era, but his memory will be immortal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                By Shiva Narayan Singh

(The writer is Editor, Rastradeep)

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