Naveen Patnaik has been the CM of Odisha for three consecutive times.
Bhubaneswar: As the aura of invincibility surrounding him begins to fade, Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik is experimenting with a number of ideas and initiatives to check the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ambitious “Look East” plan.
Under the “Look East” plan, the saffron party is eyeing at least 164 seats in the 2019 general elections from states like West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Assam, and Jharkhand, as well as other states in the Northeast.
In the past week, Mr Patnaik has gone for major changes, both in the administration and in the party, hoping to raise a strong fortress of loyalists to guard him against the marauding BJP after it got nearly 300 zilla parisad seats in panchayat polls held in the state earlier in 2017.
The BJP, in its two-day national executive meet held on April 15 and 16, made it clear that Odisha would be its base from where it would make further inroads into North-Eastern and South-Eastern states.
Having realised that all is not well in the BJD parliamentary party as some of the MPs were getting closer to BJP central leaders, Mr Patnaik, in a surprise move in April, asked the party’s Rajya Sabha member Bishnu Charan Das to resign from his post to make way for Pratap Keshari Deb to manage the party’s Delhi affairs.
A staunch loyalist of the CM, Mr Deb is expected to step into the shoes of two former dynamic Rajya Sabha members in Pyarimohan Mohapatra and Kalpataru Das, who not only kept a watch over the activities of party MPs in Delhi, but also maintained a good rapport with UPA and NDA leaders to ward off any political aggression on their regional outfit that has of late been caught up in scams relating to chit funds and mining.
At least three top leaders of the BJD, including the party’s Mayurbhanj MP Ramchandra Hansda, have already been arrested by the CBI in the chit fund scam, while a host of others stare at a similar fate. In case the CBI takes up the mining scam probe, some of the prominent BJD leaders who allegedly patronised the loot of iron ore worth over `3 lakh crore from Odisha’s mines, are likely to be put behind bars.
The BJD’s Rajya Sabha nominee, Mr Deb, will have to be especially vigilant of leaders like Bhartruhari Mahtab and Baijyant Jay Panda, who the BJD suspects are getting closer to the BJP.
Sensing the rising anger of the people against some of his young and tainted ministers, Mr Patnaik shunted out four such members from his council of ministers on Sunday, and replaced them with senior legislators to send a message that he still had control and command over the government.
Mr Patnaik also went for massive changes at the organisation level. He assigned the responsibilities of the sensitive Koraput, Jagatsinghpur, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Gajapati and Bolangir districts to young and energetic oganisers for further consolidation of the party’s organisation at the grassroots.
According to political pundits, Odisha, where the BJP had won just one of the 21 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is currently at the heart of the BJP’s “Look-East” policy. The first sign that this was within the realm of possibility came in February, when the party won 297 seats in the panchayat elections as against the ruling BJD’s 400 seats. The main Opposition party, the Congress, was left with less than 100 seats.
Naveen Patnaik is the 14th and incumbent chief minister of Odisha. The founding chief of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), he is known for his clean politics and is among the most popular chief minister of the state. He has been the CM of Odisha for three consecutive times. Mr Patnaik has also written three books.
Born: October 16, 1946, Cuttack
Party: Biju Janata Dal
Books: A Second Paradise: Indian Courtly Life, A Second Paradise, A Desert Kingdom and The Garden of Life
Education: The Doon School, Welham Boys’ School, University of Delhi, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, Kirori Mal College
Siblings: Gita Mehta, Prem Patnaik
Parents: Biju Patnaik, Gyan Patnaik
Despite coming from a political family, he stayed away from active politics for most of his life. It was only after his father Biju Patnaik passed away in 1997 that he finally entered politics
In 1998, Mr Patnaik founded BJD
Elected to the 12th Lok Sabha again from Aska constituency and given the minister of mines in the Atal Cabinet
Elected as the chief minister for the first time in March 2000
Again sworn in as CM in 2004, 2009 and 2014
Awards and recognitions
Rated the second best chief minister of India by NDTV Opinion Poll in 2010
Honoured by the UN for evacuating nearly a million people ahead of tropical storm, Cyclone Phailin that hit coastal Odisha in October 2013