Op-Ed: Exercising Political Patronage Is Chief Minister’s Privilege

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The recent appointment of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders to various boards and corporations has triggered a debate about chief minister, Naveen Patnaik using political patronage to rehabilitate leaders who were either denied party tickets in the last elections or had been working in various organisational capacities in the hope of rewards. Some like Pushpendra Singh Deo had been defeated in the last elections.

The opposition charge is that Patnaik has resorted to this exercise to appease disgruntled leaders so that he does not have to face dissidence in future. After all the party cannot give tickets to everyone and there are bound to be murmurs of discontent everytime an election arrives. Hence the party needs to think of other ways to keep its leaders in good humour, argue Opposition leaders.

The thrust of the argument is that the appointments to boards and corporations being a rehabilitation exercise merit becomes a casualty in such cases. These bodies get to be run by politicians who neither have necessary skills nor any real desire to improve the lot of the corporations they are entrusted with. In short these bodies are likely to have a bleak future under these leaders.

While there may be some merit in the argument it is wrong to make generalisations and paint everyone with the same brush. It is quite likely that there are also efficient and capable leaders among those who have taken charge of these bodies. For all we know they may end up giving a facelift to their respective organisations.

What we should also keep in mind is that exercise of political patronage is a practice with all ruling parties, not only in India but also in several other countries of the world. Such positions are invariably reserves for loyalists of the leader but he may also at times use this privilege to keep dissidence at bay.

There is no denying that chief minister, Naveen Patnaik is a clever leader who has mastered the art of politics within a short time. He knows how to make friends and also knows how to cut down enemies and rivals to size. He has done this umpteen times during his political career.

His most important political trait is his timing. He can be patient and wait to strike at his enemy. One would recall how he had faced dissidence when a large number of his party leaders had defied the whip and voted in favour of then dissident leader, Dilip Ray in the Rajya Sabha elections. It was a massive embarrassment for the party but Patnaik delayed taking action against the rebels even though they had been identified.

He realized that at that time he did not have the required strength to crack the whip and any coercive action might have split the party. He acted when he was in full control of things. Right now he is running the party the way he wants because he has complete control over it. Let us grant him his patronage. It is his right.

(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.)