Op-Ed: Will Patnaik Be Lucky Again?

Bhubaneswar: Chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president, Naveen has been extremely lucky in politics. Making a reluctant entry into the political arena in 1997 following his father, Biju Patnaik’s death he won the Aska Lok Sabha by-election without much difficulty. Back then he could barely speak Odia and the opposition sought to make an issue of it but the tactic did not click with the voters who accepted Patnaik.

Luck was also on his side when he led the BJD-BJP combine to a comfortable victory in 2000 assembly elections. The prevailing atmosphere in the state at the time favoured him and his alliance. People were itching to teach the Congress a lesson for its mishandling of the situation arising out of 1999 super-cyclone. More than voting for the Patnaik-led alliance they had voted against the Congress.

In the subsequent elections Patnaik has hardly ever had to face a strong opposition. In 2004 he fought against a discredited and badly divided Congress which tried to make corruption an issue. However, the party failed to come up with even a shred of credible evidence to prove the charges it levelled against Patnaik and the alliance he was leading at the time. Besides, Congress’s own track record on corruption had been so bad that its campaign on the issue fell flat.

In 2009 Patnaik’s BJD parted ways with the BJP amidst much recrimination and mudslinging. Many political pundits predicted doom for the party but the chief minister was unfazed. He made seat adjustments with some ‘ like-minded’ parties and once again won the battle with consummate ease.

The BJP came up with one of its worst performances in the state in these elections winning just six assembly seats. The defeat proved beyond any doubt that BJP had been piggy-riding the BJD during the years of the alliance and not vice-versa.

Patnaik’s luck held once again in 2014 when his party won a landslide victory in the state elections, all on its own. It also won 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Patnaik was hailed as the only chief minister in the country who had turned anti-incumbency on its head.

Compared to his father, Biju Patnaik, a legendary figure who is often described as a statesman, Naveen has been much more successful as a politician. Biju Babu, as his father was lovingly called by the people, was the chief minister of the state only twice with a period of almost 30 years separating his two tenures. He spent the better part of his political career sitting in the opposition.

Naveen, on the contrary, has already broken all political records in the state by becoming the chief minister of the state four times in a row. Winning elections back to back is no mean achievement despite the slice of luck he has enjoyed so far.

Now that the fate of candidates and the parties has been sealed in the EVMs the moot question is will Naveen Patnaik be lucky again? We will know the answer on May 23.

(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.)