History will not treat Naveen as kindly as Odias did him in his lifetime

The article reflects on Naveen Patnaik's political tenure as he steps down, critiquing his governance and its impact on Odia culture and politics. It highlights his manipulative political strategies, possible corruption, and the perceived betrayal by his trusted aide, alongside the disillusionment with his secular claims.

Naveen Patnaik

As a young, aspiring journalist, I remember getting horrified at the unvarnished venom spewed out by Arun Shourie, a journalist I truly admired at the time, in an editorial written by him shortly after the brutal assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. “How I wish she was alive and humbled at the hustings! In dying under the circumstances she did, she became a martyr instead (or words to that effect)!” I lost all respect for Shourie as a journalist – and as a person – after this editorial. “How can a person harbour so much hate inside him for a person who is already dead,” I wondered.

As Naveen Patnaik bowed out of office today, I was reminded of this incident. Unlike Shourie, I had the satisfaction of seeing the Wonder Man of Odisha politics humbled at the hustings. Unlike Shourie again, I would only wish him good health and a long life -maybe even write his memoirs about his tryst with politics since he is a writer – as he lays down office. But as a hard-nosed journo, I would also say it was high time he went. Not because of his visibly failing health, but because his continuation as Chief Minister would have meant the perpetuation of a system where elected representatives, including ministers, have been reduced to a herd of goats (or lambs, if you please); the Assembly reduced to a plaything of the ruler; the media reduced to an extension of the ruling class with a mix of ‘carrot and stick’ and, above all, a handful of invisible, corrupt and self-centred officers (mostly non-Odia) decide the fate of the state (and line their pockets in the process).