Soft-spoken, astute politician has very adroitly kept his adversaries away from striking distances.
BHUBANESWAR: Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik shows no signs of fatigue. Ruling the state for 20 years now, the 74-year-old CM also runs the cumbersome party affairs very adroitly ever since it was founded in 1997.
Naveen’s unusual capability, both as head of state and BJD president, surprises many. Defying all logic that a politician must be a loquacious to well-articulated in his thoughts in louder voice before the public for establishing greater connect with them, the CM manages with brief written speeches at political rallies and official meetings and continues to remain hugely popular with the voters. The key rivals — the Congress in the past and presently the BJP — have failed to make much dent into his image and harm his party’s electoral gains.
The chief minister who was recently elected as the party president for the eighth consecutive term has declared to make his party stronger and consolidated to deny any opportunity to the rivals to come to power in the state.
In the power in the state since 2000, Naveen — unlike other politicians — have experienced little roller-coaster ride, much because he always kept the adversaries beyond striking distances.
After decimating, in the early years, the party’s old guards and party’s founder members who he perceived threats to his position, the CM targeted potential leaders in the Opposition and ensured that they never entered the State Assembly or the Parliament to be thorns in his crown.
Once consolidation, the CM rolled out numerous schemes and welfare measures for all sections of the people — starting from women and children to students, elderly persons and differently-abled. These people have always stood rock solid behind him. The Congress, which was the key Opposition in the state till 2019 Assembly polls in which it lost that position to the BJP, never appeared in all these years posing any real threat to the BJD. The utter disunity among the party’s state leaders and disenchantment of the party’s Central leadership to care for the organisational affairs crippled it. Each top leader of the party, while nourishing an ambition post of chief minister, never sweated and toiled hard on the ground to ensure the party’s victory. They all lived in the fool’s paradise hoping they would come to power on anti-incumbency factor.
In 2000 Assembly polls, the Congress had bagged 38 seats and in the last 2019 polls, it got only 9 seats in the 147-member state legislature, depicting an unwarranted picture of its falling relevance in the state politics. Its vote share has always been in the wane; it has come down from 33.78 per cent in 2000 to 16.12 per cent in 2019 Assembly polls. The party had got 25.6 per cent in 2014 Assembly polls.
In sharp contrast, the vote shares of BJD and BJP in 2019 Assembly elections stood at 44.7 and 32.5 per cent, respectively.
After sharing power with the BJD for nine years in the state, the BJP was shown the door by Naveen in 2009 after being labled by the latter as “communal”. The saffron party, then seething in anger and vowing to dislodge the regional party from power to avenge Naveen’s “humiliation,” has failed to assuage the feelings of lakhs of supporters. Diluted stands of the party’s state and Central leaders have deprived it of its dream to come to power in the eastern Indian state. It won 23 of the 147 seats in 2019 Assembly elections, a figure far less than the 120-plus target set by erstwhile party chief Amit Shah.
With the BJP losing power in one after another state in the country in the recent elections, the BJP central leadership has been looking at Naveen Patnaik for passing crucial pieces of legislation in the Parliament. Less than any political compulsion, the BJD has been supporting the BJP post the 2019 polls purely on strategic grounds.