Op-Ed: A Test of Mettle For Patnaik

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Chief minister, Naveen Patnaik came to power in the state for the first time in 2000 riding an anti-Congress wave. People were angry with the Congress for a number of reasons, the foremost being its terrible mismanagement of the situation arising out of the super-cyclone in 1999. It had left behind an unprecedented trail of death and destruction, the toll being as high as 10,000.

The entire coast was in a mess with lakhs of people rendered homeless and jobless. The state witnessed food riots for the first time with hungry people looting relief trucks in districts like Jagatsinghpur.

Veteran Giridhar Gamang was the chief minister of the state when the gale struck the state with wind speed reaching 300 kms per hour. It swept away everything before it. The administration appeared paralyzed. Nothing moved in the state for the first 24 hours after the cyclone made a landfall. By the time the government could get its act together the damage had been done.

Gamang was succeeded by Hemanand Biswal but even his government failed to expedite rehabilitation and reconstruction work. So people were itching to teach the Congress a lesson and voted overwhelmingly against it when the elections were held in 2000.

The BJP-Biju Janata Dal alliance led by Naveen Patnaik, thus, won that election was ease. The three elections held in the state after that have also been more or a less a cakewalk for Patnaik with the opposition failing to throw up a credible challenge to him. In 2004 it was a facile victory for the BJP-BJD alliance while in 2009, when their partnership collapsed, BJD cantered home on its own. Neither BJP nor the Congress could pose a real challenge to the BJD. It was more or less the same in 2014.

But this time many things have changed with chief minister looking shaky for the first time. This is obvious from his reactions and also the reactions of his party. The ruling party’s ad blitz this time betrayed lack of confidence and a tendency to go over the top in a bid to convince the electorate that it was the sole custodian of Odisha’s interests.

But there is no denying that the chief minister is a fighter and won’t concede an inch to the opposition. The strenuous campaign that he undertook covering the length and breadth of Odisha, most of the time in his specially designed bus, must have taken a toll on his body but he did not flinch from his duty.

The BJP had many star campaigners led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi but BJD’s lone star was chief minister, Naveen Patnaik and he did not let down his party when it needed him the most. He also responded well to the charges of his opponents, especially the BJP.

For many this election in Odisha has been a battle between Modi and Patnaik, both having a point to prove. It is true that Modi made Patnaik sweat in an election perhaps for the first time in his political career. But it was a tough test that put both of them on their mettle.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)