Op-Ed: What Makes Naveen Tick?

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar; In the wake of Biju Janata Dal’s stunning victory in the assembly elections the question uppermost in everyone’s mind is what makes Naveen Patnaik tick? Becoming the chief minister of the state for the firth time in a row is no ordinary feat, specially for a person who had made a rather hesitant entry into politics following his father, Biju Patnaik’s death.

Naveen, the socialite who moved in the company of celebrities and loved reading and writing books, must have found politics to be a tall order. More so because he had to fill in the shoes of a legend who had dominated Odisha’s political scene for several decades. And Odisha was no Gujrat or Maharashtra, it was a poor state with a myriad problems, poverty being the most formidable of them.

But pushed and prodded by Biju Babu’s followers he took up that challenge. And once he had made up his mind there was no going back . Tenacity has been one of the most outstanding traits of Naveen and it has stood him in good stead in politics. His tenacity was on display when he hit the campaign trail in Aska in 1997 winning that Lok Sabha by-poll convincingly despite opposition’s attempt to portray him as an outsider and someone who was a complete stranger to state’s language and culture.

His other defining trait–the ability to make shortwork of enemies in the most ruthless way–came to the fore soon after when he showed veteran Bijay Mohapatra, the then political affairs committee chairperson of BJD, the door. It was a blow from which Mohapatra is yet to recover. Eversince Naveen has dealt with many other formidable political foes in a similar fashion.

The fifth time chief minister of Odisha is also a master strategist and happens to be a good judge of people. These qualities have helped him pick up the right people for specialized jobs and craft his party’s electoral strategy convincingly. The numerous welfare schemes that his government has launched over the years are part of a long term strategy to keep his party ahead of its rivals. Each of these schemes has been carefully thought out and targeted at different segments of the population that constitute important votebanks.

Take for example Mission Shakti that practically started the self help group movement among women who constitute a huge vote bank and have been voting for Naveen and his party faithfully. His campaign for reservation of 33 percent seats for women in parliament and state assemblies is another example of how assiduously he has been trying to cultivate this constituency of women. Here he led by example fielding women of various age groups in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. Making hexagenarian Pramila Bisoi BJD’s Lok Sabha candidate from Aska was a master-stroke.

Yet another important trait of Naveen’s personality is that he is hard working and does not believe in leaving anything to chance. Anyone who saw him campaigning in the recent Lok Sabha and assembly elections must have realized that he values perseverance more than anything else. Travelling in his customized bus he covered almost the length and breadth of the state campaigning for BJD candidates. In constituencies like Kendrapara, where his prestige was stake, he spent much more time and also marshalled his resources like an astute general at war.

Naveen being a human being like any of us must be feeling hurt by criticism but he has been extremely restrained in his response to the accusations hurled at him. We saw this during the election campaign when he refused to be provoked by the attacks of the likes of BJP president, Amit Shah who spewed venom against him. Naveen’s restraint has further boosted his public image as a gentleman politician and has repeatedly fetched him votes. Armed with such qualities he continues to rule Odisha unchallenged.

(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.)