The year that was not for Naveen

The year 2012 in many ways was not so good for the head of the government in Odisha, Naveen Patnaik. He faced fewer threats comparatively and survived too, but did suffer some impact. In some matters, he demonstrated lack of emotion and remained a simple politician.

The other day, the chief minister expressed shock at the Delhi gang-rape incident and demanded stringent punishment for the perpetrators of the crime. In what seems to be a peculiar penchant for politicians to play the role-reversal, Patnaik had never seemed so concerned when the state was shaken by an equally barbaric incident of gang-rape in Pipli, in Puri district. The girl was gang-raped, thrashed and was abandoned with her neck twisted in an open field. A sorry tale that failed to stir the chief minister from his political stupor.

She died after battling death for over 48 days and the episode was hushed up after customary condolences. Neither there was any show of emotions nor feelings by the chief minister.

The state witnessed over 1,250 incidents of rape and murder in 2012 alone and he being the home minister has not been able to demonstrate the gumption for any expeditious convictions.

Politically, nothing could have been more a shocker for him than the one his erstwhile advisor Pyari Mohan Mohapatra scripted on May 29 midnight to dethrone him while he was relaxing in London. It was a big blow though Naveen survived. Fear seemingly continues to haunt him and the discomforts linger on as Pyari is in a not-to-give-up mood and keeps battering Patnaik`s image through mind games, though, often, appearing puerile in his manifestations.

By orchestrating political rallies or meetings Mohapatra unsleeves the tricks of mental annihilation to keep Naveen in a state of suspended animation. Politically, what will happen in 2014 because of Pyari`s rebellion can be difficult to predict, but the traits of disconcert within the Biju Janta Dal (BJD) are no less explicit. Soft-spoken Naveen has so far not delved into the use of any diatribes against Pyari which points at the implicit fear within the ruling camp. But, what is that fear?

Pyari Mohan, on his part, kept the political fraternity guessing for months saying he was still in the BJD, before suddenly, very recently, declaring that he would dive into power politics and may seek to lead a government in Odisha as the chief minister. It may be a perplexing show of political haste but it has exposed how frantically he wants to finish his run-up to power. In the role of a political protagonist, Pyari needs time to consolidate before claiming the pulpit or measure upto Naveen Patnaik.

What Naveen Patnaik still refuses to concede as a weakness is his unspoken love for the paratrooping corporate houses for whom laws are bent or broken. He had never allowed his hopes to be shattered by the series of exposes on the coal block allocation scam which involved over a dozen big players and he rather maintained a quizzical cool to retain his hopes for an image recover. He has an uncanny reading of days ahead as to how things fritter away with time.

He has so far survived the onslaughts of the multi-crore mining scam in Odisha and intends to ward off the stings of the coal scam without being even least finicky. He knows that the coal scam is a five-star scam in which the Centre also enjoys a substantial share of the guilt. A kind of unholy venture which pumps oxygen into politicians and mafias fatten with the elixir.

Odisha`s growing array of political outfits and some led by non-political heads are a matter of concern for the party in power who may seek alliance of major contenders who matter a bit and influence vote bank. So, Naveen Patnaik has no other option but to seek a mandate to stay in power and fix the sagging economy back to shape.

Patnaik`s experiments to contain Maoism in Odisha were not in tune with the ground realities and such efforts suffered the worst setback when two major abductions of VIPs were carried out by the red rebels. The way the crisis was tackled invited sharp criticism. During the abductions, the state government obviously could not profit from the publicities it orchestrated through the series of negotiations all of which culminated in a surrender of sort before the wishes of the rebels.

In political power games, what always remains the cause of great upset is the role of the Opposition. But, on that score Naveen has not much to fear in view of a sketchy shape of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), busy in a week-long soul searching to elect a president for the state unit. And, in the Congress many factions are behaving like fishwives with the next General Election barely a year away. All this signals a very low-key fight.