Dark Horse Of Eastern India
In the age of alliance politics, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Babu now-a-days seems to be very articulate and active in regional and national politics. Although he is not very popular like his father Biju Patnaik, he has ruled the state for more time than his father. When he entered politics Naveen Babu had no experience, but now it looks he has conquered the state with his effective governance. In fact, there is no parallel leadership like that of Naveen Babu, both in the Congress and the BJP. His clean image is the biggest USP for his party. Being a bachelor, he takes the credit of working full time for the state and the BJD. Naveen Babu had been successful in closing the political chapter of his bête noire Pyari Babu. He is a successful BJD president and CM. Without the alliance with the BJD, as of now, neither the BJP nor the Congress holds any key to win the forthcoming local body, assembly or Lok Sabha elections.
The Chief Minister of Odisha now is a man in a hurry. The quiet and demure is unusually vocal and virulent. Thrice a week, he is on whistle stop tours, launching schemes, inaugurating projects, laying foundations for roads, bridges and so on. The Biju Patnaik International Airport has seen the addition of a fixed wing aircraft and a chopper, which are at the beck and call of the government.
Last fortnight saw him go on a state-wide spree. He flew to seven districts and planted the seeds of development and progress. Populist schemes of rice at Re 1/- a kg, sops to youth clubs and associations, free cell phones to farmers etc. have been announced. The BJD has certainly come into the election mode, that too in top gear. While not heli-hopping, he is shooting letters to the Prime Minister, using words like “draconian”, “infringement” and “violative”. He air-dashes to Delhi at least once every month and makes the rounds of the different ministries, arm-twisting them for funds.
As things stand today, Naveen Babu has things stacked all in his favour. There is good news from all rounds. The Shah Commission of Enquiry on the mines scam is kowtowing and going soft, and there is every likelihood that Odisha will scrape through unlike Goa and Karnataka. The state has registered a growth rate both in GDP and per capita income. Crime graph has come down and Maoists are on the back foot.
Earlier, Naveen Babu was reticent and spoke little. Post the Pyari Mohapatra fiasco, he has proved that he is not a novice as he was made out to be. He has weeded out a lot of deadwood from the party and the young Turks now rule the roost. The CM is now verbose and media friendly, which is confusing to people within his party and outside. His new-found political acumen has surprised friends and foes alike. He is clearly defying anti-incumbency theories with his clean image standing the test of time. Above all, Patnaik’s simplicity, honesty and devotion to work appear to have played a role.
The only Odia leader of national stature was his late father Biju Patnaik. If he had wielded his national charisma with the present political astuteness of his son, Biju Babu would have surely been the Prime Minister instead of Deve Gowda. Naveen Babu is playing the same anti-Centre card, rallying for a third front and projecting himself as a Prime Minister-in-waiting. While gaining the respect of the average Odia, he is projecting himself as an Odia leader of national repute. It is now loud and clear that the Odisha’s chief minister is now one of India’s strongest and most charismatic leaders. By doing this he is taking the game away from the opposition, lock, stock and barrel.
Jay Panda, an MP, the once blue-eyed boy of Naveen Patnaik, had described the secret behind his boss’s success. Three factors, he says, have won Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik three assembly elections in a row. One, a “remarkable level of sincerity,” reflected in Patnaik’s “monk-like total immersion” in his job; two, a “deep commitment to good governance,” reflected in his rigorous economic management; and three, a “clinical, dispassionate political decision-making process” that Panda claims did away with “intrigue, lobbying, drama, sabotage, subterranean tests of loyalty, unverifiable caste arithmetic, and even kickbacks”, especially in naming candidates for elections.
The internal bickerings in the opposition Congress and BJP are all contributing to his success. Both the parties are busy sorting out their own internal problems rather than making attempts to capitalise on issues, which plague the state. The opposition parties have failed to project an alternative to him. But it is also true that Patnaik managed to make a mark in the hearts of urban and rural voters as well as poorer people by taking several development initiatives.
Naveen Babu is no more the reluctant politician. He has clear national ambitions. He now knows which cards to open and when.