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Odisha CM Naveen cocks a snook at Centre thanks to state’s rich treasury

THE ASIAN AGE. | AKSHAYA KUMAR SAHOO
Published : Jul 16, 2018, 4:10 am IST
Updated : Jul 16, 2018, 4:12 am IST

Ability to roll out welfare schemes from state’s own financial resources helps him take on the Union govt.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have teamed up to dislodge ‘invincible’ BJD head and chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have teamed up to dislodge ‘invincible’ BJD head and chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

Bhubaneswar: Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik’s invincibility in successive Lok Sabha and Assembly elections since 2000 remains a mystery to many. It also surprises leaders of other parties as to how the bachelor politician has beengrowing in strength over the years despite holding a belligerent stance against the Centre.

Mr Patnaik has been running his show smoothly for nearly two decades now and has faced little challenge to his authority either from the previous UPA government or the present NDA government headed by Narendra Modi.

A steady growth in state’s revenue and the frequent rolling out of numerous pro-poor measures and welfare programmes have all provided Mr Patnaik the much-required strength to adopt an anti-Centre stance.

Mr Patnaik had come to power in 2000 after a tumultuous political phase of five years — from 1995 to 2000 — that saw the state under the Congress rule plunging into a state of lawlessness, increasing atrocities against women, rising poverty and migration of people to other states in search of work.

The previous J.B. Patnaik regime had to depend for most of the days on overdrafts and wages and means assistance from the Reserve Bank of India in order to meet the daily expenses of the administration, pay salaries of employees and dues of the pensioners. The situation worsened following the 1999 Super Cyclone which left nearly 10,000 people dead and wrought a large-scale devastation in coastal Odisha. Instead of waking up to the challenge of reconstruction, the Congress leaders then fought among themselves for power.

Mr Patnaik exploited the situation to his advantage. Aided by a well-oiled public relations campaign that depicted the Congress government as most “insensitive” and “power-hungry” party, he projected himself as the saviour. He also promised reconstruction of the state’s economy to check poverty, malnutrition and hunger. He overplayed Odia pride and regionalism that brought his party BJD to power in 2000.

In 2000-01, without adequate revenue resources, the BJD government’s first annual Budget estimate was pegged at `16,207 crore. In order to overcome the financial difficulties, the government resorted to austere fiscal measures that brought about significant changes in the state economy.

Within a couple of years, Odisha was placed on a steady growth trajectory. Riding high on the increase in global demand for minerals like iron ore, chorme ore, coal, manganese, the BJD embarked upon an ambitious industrialisation movement. Almost all the big corporate houses, including Tata Steel, Vedanta Group, Birla Group, Jindal Group, Essar Steel, Bhusan Steel, L&T and Mesco, made a beeline to the state for investments in steel, power and other heavy industries. Huge investments led to a steady increase in the state’s earning. The state which in 2000 struggled to meet its day-to-day administrative expenses passed a huge budget of `1.2 lakh crore. Propelled by a sustained economic growth, the Naveen Patnaik government has launched dozens of programmes that cover almost all —starting from pregnant mothers and newborns to old-age people.

Even after the natural death of a person, his family is provided `2000. Industrial workers, construction workers, students, accredited journalists and people living under Below Poverty Line (BPL) have all been brought under the health and life insurance coverage.

Of the total 2.61 crore voters in Odisha, 2.39 lakh had cast their ballots in 2014 Assembly elections. Of this, the BJD had got 93 lakh votes and won 117 seats.

Between 2014 and 2018, the Naveen government, while protesting discontinuation of certain Centrally-sponsored programmes, has launched many schemes of its own. Some of the major schemes include Biju Swasthya Yojana, Biju Kanya Ratna Yojana, Biju Krushak Kalyan Yojana, Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana and Madhu Babu Pension Yojana.

There have also been hikes in incentives for meritorious students, sops like bicycles, free uniforms for school students and special allowances for Hindu and Muslim pilgrims.

The state’s rich treasury has given much confidence to Mr Patnaik to cock asnook at the Centre. His calculative declaration that his party maintains equidistance from the Congress and BJP is another strategy that keeps the two national parties on tenterhooks.

The Congress and the BJP never dared to take the BJD head on with a hope that in the event of falling short of numbers to form government at the Centre, the BJD might come to their rescue.

Tough competitor  

  • Naveen Patnaik became CM for the first time in 2000
  • He has won 4 Assembly elections — 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2014
  • Of the 2.39 lakh votes polled in 2014 Assembly elections, BJD got 93 lakh votes and won 117 of the 147 seats. It also won 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.
  • Naveen had inherited a bankrupt state which now has enough funds for welfare
  • In 2000-2001, Odisha’s annual budget estimate was Rs 16,207 crore
  • In 2017-18, Odisha’s budget estimate jumped to Rs 1.20 lakh crore

Tags: naveen patnaik, narendra modi
Location: India, Odisha, Bhubaneswar