Bhubaneswar, May 21 (PTI): Considered a political novice and a reluctant inheritor of Biju Patnaik’s mantle till1997, Naveen Patnaik has turned master strategist to become Odisha Chief Minister for the fourth consecutive time.
Unfazed by a series of scams including mining and chit fund scandals and charges of irregularities in rural job scheme MGNERGA, Patnaik steered the BJD to a landslide victory in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls as the party won 117 of the 147 Assembly seats and 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.
The 67-year-old Patnaik effectively tackled the party’s internal affairs and countered the opposition onslaught to raise the popularity of BJD in every successive elections.
Despite being chief of a regional party, Patnaik’s name was at one point mooted by many even for the prime ministerial job, but the BJD supremo kept a low profile, largely confining himself to state politics.
Patnaik was inducted into politics after his father’s death in 1997. He became a Lok Sabha member winning the by-election from Aska.
A year later Naveen floated the Biju Janata Dal, a regional party named after his father and entered into alliance with BJP to become a cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998.
In 2000, when the BJD-BJP alliance was voted back to power in Odisha Patnaik was made chief minister. The combine retained power after 2004.
However, ties between BJD and BJP soured in the aftermath of Kandhamal riots 2008 and Patnaik severed the alliance with the saffron party on the eve of the 2009 general elections.
The move not only strengthened Naveen’s secular credentials, but also propelled BJD’s poll prospects in 2009 when it won 14 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 103 of the 147 seats in the Odisha Assembly.
Since 2009, Patnaik’s party witnessed many upheavals including an alleged coup bid, but the BJD supremo overcame all adversities to finally register an unprecedented record victory this time as Odisha remained untouched by the Narendra Modi wave that swept the country.
He demonstrated his ability to skillfully handle adverse situations when he nipped in the bud an alleged coup to topple his government two years ago when he was on a visit abroad.
Once considered Naveen’s chief strategist and close confidante, bureaucrat-turned politician Pyari Mohan Mohapatra was not only removed from the party, but also pushed into political oblivion in due course of time.
A writer, who also dabbled in arts after completing his education, Patnaik was a founder-member of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).