Naveen Patnaik—The Master Gambler of Indian Politics

Author : Odisha Today Bureau | Posted on: 2019-01-31

From raising the state's contour to a preferred investment destination to fighting off every obstacle that comes his way, he is the ultimate man­­­­­­‑-Naveen Patnaik who established himself as Odisha's man for all seasons. He is a reluctant politician who jumped from New York high society into Odisha's political minefield as his father Biju Patnaik's legatee and transformed the state during his tenure over the last 18 years. He not only emerged as a shrewd politician but also emerged as one of the most popular and beloved Chief Minister of Odisha. He is a public figure and guide who inspires the people around in various gears. Some people are born leaders because the quality runs in their family and also in their genes. And as a good leader he possesses lot of good qualities which he acquired from his father. He owns certain good qualities which are natural as well as a result of external influence. His qualities are often backed by skill, experiences, intelligence, integrity and instincts which together help him to attain his goals. He is a man of few words, but when he speaks everybody takes a note. All these years, he has been the CM of Odisha who attracted healthy media attention for himself and hi state.

The years between 1995 & 2000 were the turning points in Odisha’s political history. With political instability and natural disaster ripping the state, it was looking for a way out of the situation. People were in dilemma, searching for leader who could arrest the stunted growth and put the state on a path of rapid development. And that was the critical moment when Naveen decided to take over the reins of Odisha. For his pro-people & reform oriented governance, he is today the undisputed leader in the state & country.



He was born on October 16, 1946 at Anand Bhawan in Cuttack, to Shri Biju Patnaik and Smt Gyan Patnaik. For a brief period he started his schooling at Cuttack’s St. Joseph’s convent and later on after few years he moved to New Delhi after spending few years in Cuttack. He was the second son of Biju Patnaik who at the age of seven went to Welham Boys’s School in Dehradun. He even partly studied at The Doon School of Dehradun where he passed out with a senior Cambridge Certificate at the age of 17. He went to Delhi to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Arts. As a student he shined in athletic, oil painting and excelled in history. Although he belonged to an intensely political family background, he never showed any curiosity towards politics. It only happened during his stay at Delhi when he started getting little exposure towards the political climate of the country.


Upon the death of his father Biju Patnaik, the state witnessed a political vacuum. Naveen immediately returned back to India from the US and was initially elected as Member of the 11th Lok Sabha in by-election from Aska Parliamentary Constituency of Odisha. He was of course, a novice in politics then who never tasted political waters but stood up to the challenge. He keenly served as the member of the Consultative Committee of Ministry of Steel & Mines, Member of Standing Committee on Commerce, and Member of Library Committee of Parliament. Not only did he begin his political journey, he knew the need of the hour, where he was supposed to identify the barriers in the path of economic growth. Basically a year later the Janata Dal came towards a split and this led Patnaik to form a new regional party called the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in 1998, which fought in alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and performed well. His performance got well appreciated by A.B.Vajpayee who decided to join Patnaik in his cabinet as the Union Minister of mines. In the year 1999, the state of Odisha unluckily faced a natural calamity called the ‘super cyclone’ which devastated the state beyond recognition. The government was unable to handle the situation and mass dissatisfaction led to vulnerable situation. During that critical period, Patnaik and his Biju Janata Dal turned out to be the silver lining.In the 2000 Assembly election he devoted all his energy in leading the regional party BJD and even the people were happy enough to vote him to power. So BJD won with a majority of seats in alliance with the BJP in the Odisha Assembly elections which led Patnaik to resign from the Union cabinet only to swear in as the Chief Minister of Odisha. Development in Odisha began from there onwards. The BJD government’s first task was to bring back the smile on the faces of the poor and the underprivileged. Patnaik believed that unless the socially backward people are not taken out of the morass, no development can take place.This led BJD to start various programmes especially for the lower section of the society. Infrastructure development also took place with the construction of road, bridges and other similar projects. The new government aimed at bringing Odisha out of the ignorance of a laggard state and change it into a progressive one. Thus began ‘The Age of Naveen’.New major initiatives towards development and other administrative reforms were initiated simultaneously. He largely ensured that all development benefits should go to the people at the grassroots level. His determination and dedication paid him good dividends which led him to win the 2004 Assembly election with a thumping victory. He became CM for the second time in a row along with BJP as the alliance. However, the alliance could not last for long. During Patnaik’s tenure, the friction with the ruling partners got more apparent, especially after the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati at the Kandhamal district of Odisha in the year 2008. The Bajarang Dal actively started the communal riot which did not go down well with Naveen. He being a secular could not withstand the forces that were dividing the state along communal lines. This gave result to the end of their alliance and at the end BJD fought the 2009 Assembly election on its own. Due to his never-die and never-give-up attitude, the electorate reposed their faith in Naveen and he again won with majority.

After forming government for the third time, he took major steps to announce pro-people policies with focus on poverty alienation.To ensure food security, he introduced ‘rice at Rs one per kg’ scheme. He even looked after the empowerment of women through ‘Mission Shakti’ and also helped pregnant women and children through ‘Mamta Yojna’ which are considered as the two important flagship programmes of the Naveen government. He was liked by one and all for his idea of establishing food canteen for the poor in the urban areas of Odisha. Development did not stop here, tribal rights have been protected and also there is a fair treatment towards forest produce. By ensuring stipends to all tribal and scheduled caste children, he made them self-reliant. The swing of development oriented programmes brought about major changes in the urban and rural arena, which brought the Naveen government closer to the people. His pro-people scheme helped him to win election one after the other and the polls in 2014 broke all previous records. Biju Janata Dal secured 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats of Odisha and 117 of the 147 Odisha Vidhan Sabha seats.



Naveen became popular among people because of his diverse schemes. He introduced Biju Swasthya Kalyan, Banishree Yojana, Biju Krushak Kalyan Yojana, Madhubabu Pension Yojana, Ahar Yojana, UNNATI for urban development, ABADHA for culture and tourism, SWARNA for youth affairs and sports development, BASUDA for water resources, Maltidevi Prak Vidhyalaya Paridhan, Mukhyamantri Adibandha Yojana, Khushi scheme, NIDAAN scheme for health and family welfare, AMA Clinic Yojana, ANMOL scheme etc. and many more other schemes. Recently in December 2018 he introduced a new programme called PEETHA, which is a proposed part of Ama Gaon Ama Bikash (AGAB) programme and is considered so far to be the largest people-connect programme of the Naveen Patnaik government. He also announced the KALIA scheme for farmers on December 2018, where he announced an Rs 10,180 crore scheme Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Argumentation (KALIA), which he termed as ‘progressive and direct attack on poverty’. Without directly ruling out farm loan waiver by his government, the chief minister justified the KALIA, a better option than loan waiver. Patnaik even ensured that the KALIA scheme is historical in the sense that it covers 92 per cent of the cultivators in the state and almost all landless agricultural labourers.          

  He even introduced an initiative named 'Make in Odisha’, which is launched by the government of Odisha for industrial growth of Odisha. So far the major investors in this initiative are NTPC, MCL, SAIL, Tata Steel, TCS, Adani, JSPL, PPL, LOCL, etc and many more. More than 80 companies are planning to invest and the state has received investment worth 30 billion US dollars. The major investment sectors includes IT, petro chemicals, food processing, health, infrastructure, ESDM, metal and minerals, manufacturing, textile and tourism, etc. He is also a founding member of the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (INTACH).     

Though Naveen brought about major progress but there are still certain facts which are hard to digest as far as his success is concerned. Even after being in power for 19 years he is still facing criticism for his lack of knowledge in Odia. Opposition parties as well as organisations working for promotion of Odia have been criticising Mr. Patnaik as he has not been able to deliver speech in Odia since he became Chief Minister in March 2000. His attempt to learn the language had ended during his first term itself. Even after ruling for almost two decade the state of Odisha is still facing poverty and unemployment which showed no drastic improvement in the past 19-20 years. Still lot of people are below poverty line and still the rate of unemployment is very high. Lots of promises made by the government are yet to be fulfilled. Lot of people are still pinning their hopes on Naveen that he will ultimately bring major changes in the upcoming years. Slowly, his legislators have been losing faith from the electorate. And according to a recent 2019 survey, detailed by the ‘The Indian Express’, shows that a majority of people may repose faith in Naveen as the CM but would not vote for their local MLAs. Recently on December 2018 he introduced two schemes named KALIA and PEETHA which was announced at a time when several states have introduced farm loan waiver to woo the farmers ahead of the 2019 elections. The Congress and BJP greatly criticized the state government saying the KALIA scheme is aimed to mislead the farmers ahead of elections and even said that the scheme will not improve the financial condition of farmers. Opposition parties claim that lot of schemes are initiated recently only to manipulate the voters especially the farmers so that BJD can claim its throne again for the fifth consecutive time.

The opposition criticises Naveen for various reasons and one of the reason is that Naveen Patnaik shares a special bond with V Karthikeyan Pandian, who is a 2000 batch IAS officer. Pandian serves as a private secretary to CM Naveen since 2011. According to the February 2018, ‘Times of India’ article which addresses that the BJP describes Pandian as the 44-year old Tamil officer as the ‘super Chief Minister’ and working president of the Naveen-led government. In fact it is also said that no serving bureaucrat in the state has ever occupied so much political space as Pandian. Baijayant Panda has repeatedly criticised the bureaucrat, directly and indirectly, over the past year accusing him of meddling in the party’s internal affairs. Pandian served as a collector at the CM’s home district Ganjam, at Odisha and under his collectorship, Ganjam emerged in 2008, as the best performing district in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). He joined office under Naveen on May 2011 and has been his trusted aide ever since. He is mostly credited for handling all Undertakings of the CMO office but he never appears in public or before the media glare. Most of the people consider Pandian as a substitute of the late Pyarimohan Mohapatra, who was also a bureaucrat turned politician. With quiet efficiency, Pandian slipped seamlessly into the role that the now late Pyarimohan Mohapatra once played and was happy for quietly calling the shots while staying scrupulously away from media. Even the cabinet ministers struggle with each other to get an audience with Pandian. With his hard work and potential ideas, he is kind of a great influence for the BJD party. In his 20 years as the president of the BJD and 18 years as chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has made it abundantly clear that he does not have the desire to be involved in the crux of the matter of running the party or the administration So he is happy assigning the task to someone he can trust while he looks after the bigger picture like planning better democratic schemes and programmes for his people of Odisha.  In fact Pandian has been criticized and targeted several times by many, mainly the opposition for being the mind behind Naveen. Whatever decision the CM takes it comes in accordance from Pandian. So the rapport between the CM and Pandian is absolutely built on conviction and reliance.


Despite the rattle neighbouring the final phase of his fourth term, Naveen continues to be the undisputed political leaders of Odisha who is most-preferred by voters and makes the opposition bite the dust at the hustings. He captures the heart of his people not only by his speech but also by initiating every single word of his speech. He shares a cordial relationship with opposition party members and never speaks ill about anyone because he thinks silence is the best weapon. He not only speaks with his image but also proves his worth. Sometimes he is held in unpopular terms within the state for not being able to talk in Odia, being the CM of Odia speaking state but on the other hand no other CM in the country speaks as good English as him. Despite limited knowledge of Oriya, the writer-turned politician not only gained popularity, but effectively sidelined potential threats within the party and marginalised the opposition, including the Congress. He is much-admired for his political outreach both nationally and internationally without compromising state issues.


Hence, Naveen government in Odisha is applauded as well as criticized by various divisions for linking people with schemes since the foetus days till the burial ground. He is often blamed by the opposition political parties for manufacturing scams & endorsing fast loot of natural resources. But according to Naveen Patnaik his rule in Odisha is the era of fast track progress in all most all segments. A latecomer in politics, his is the only rule which is not mixed with any scandal but severely determined his previous administration

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