Op-Ed: Pique Gets The Better of Sense

He had an opportunity to be magnanimous – and score a few political brownie points in the process too. But he chose to be petty. By refusing to pay floral tributes to Dr. Bansidhar Panda, the doyen of Odisha industry, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik showed that even after two decades of untramelled power, he is unable to rise above personal pique and show the political sagacity befitting a politician of his stature. It is possible that the CM failed to turn up at the Pandas’ residence because he wanted to avoid running into Jay. But that doesn’t lessen the impropriety of what he did.

More than his failure to turn up at the Pandas’ residence to pay floral tributes to the pioneering industrialist, what surprised observers was the fact that the Chief Minister, normally hyper active on social media, didn’t consider the death of Dr. Panda even worth a tweet. Both in his stature and his contribution to the state, Dr. Panda certainly deserved it more than some of the people whose death Naveen has condoled on Twitter in the recent past. [As someone pointed out on social media, he found the time to pay floral tributes to the driver killed in the run up to the Bijepur bypoll, but not Dr. Panda.]

Naveen apologists may point out that he did post a condolence message in a WhatsApp group meant for journalists. But that is not quite the same thing as a formal condolence message in the form of a tweet or a press release.

With the BJD supremo staying away, no ruling party leader dared to attend the funeral or – at the very least – pay tributes to a man who has done so much for the state. At least some of them, I dare say, must have been keen to go, but held themselves back for fear of incurring the wrath of the boss.

It was the kind of act even his staunchest supporter would find hard to defend. Arun Sahu’s discomfiture when asked about the CM’s absence today only underscored the obvious. He could not even come up with an excuse – even an unconvincing one – to try and justify the unjustifiable.

Naveen’s no-show rankled for two reasons. First, he had gone and paid his last respects even to someone like Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the man who had allegedly plotted a coup against him. Naveen had not only expelled him from the party, but had also described him as ‘beimaan’ after the failed coup bid. But Jay Panda’s ‘sin’ was obviously bigger than what Pyari had done to him in 2012.

Secondly, it is unlikely that Naveen had a quarrel with Bansidhar Panda, though the same cannot be said about Jay Panda. Nor has anyone accused the IMFA group founder of playing a role in the rift between his son and his party president. The relationship between Biju Patnaik, Naveen’s father and the man after whom his party is named, and the senior Panda is a matter of public knowledge. Punishing Bansidhar for the sins of his son thus was petty mindedness at its most reprehensible.

Paying respect to the dead, even when they have been sworn enemies while living, is one of the more endearing and enduring components of Indian tradition. In this particular case, the deceased was not even someone who had a problem with the Chief Minister, which makes it all the more condemnable.

But then pique is a powerful emotion that makes you do things without thinking about their implications. Naveen clearly allowed pique to get the better of common sense.

(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.)