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How Patnaik won Orissa

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - 21:11

D N Singh

Naveen Patnaik has silenced his critics, stormed the opponent`s bastions and steamrollered the citadel of his friend-turned-foes, the Bhartiya Janta Party. His unprecedented victory has proved all his detractors wrong. His victory was like that of the Lankan Army which pulverized the last vestiges of the Tamil Tigers. With this win Naveen has scored a hattrick.

Naveen, in his initial reactions said that he is surprised and humbled by the results that now gives him unquestionable authority to rule for a complete five years term.

But he seemed disinclined to waste time in stereotyped celebration and has rather chosen to pray before the presiding deity, lord Jagannath of Puri. But he has not been able to hide the smiles emanating from his conclusive victory.

He has become very businesslike. Two days after the results, Patnaik is back in business: working out the modalities for his new cabinet and setting his party`s agenda for a good governance during the next five years. With 104 MLAs in his kitty Patnaik does not any more need to meddle in the complexities of alliance politics.

Naveen Patnaik, in fact, hogged the limelight during the last two months for his dissociation from the BJP and his partial tilt towards the Third Front, thus fuelling rumours about his intention to play an active role in national politics. But, nobody knew it better than Patnaik himself that his goal was to retain power in Orissa for the third time and he invested all his resources into that. So Naveen took it as a do-or-die battle and won it. It was virtually Naveen versus the rest in Orissa.

An array of political heavyweights ranging from those of the BJP who spewed venom over his alleged betrayal, to Congress’ Sonia Gandhi descended on Orissa, but Naveen emerged invincible. While the entire nation was almost caught by a tide in favour of the Congress (or UPA), Naveen Patnaik was one of the few who reversed the tide and romped home with a majority unprecedented in the history of the state.

By bagging 13 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats, Patnaik now also has the power to stare down many of his detractors in the centre.

While the whole flock of political groups in the country were seen faltering after the fourth phase of the polling, Naveen did not waver an inch from his anti-Congress and anti-BJP resolve. Now he has decided to pursue his policies for the state by taking on the Centre head-on rather than aligning with the UPA.

What Made It Possible?

While the Biju Janta Dal leaders attributes the landslide victory to Naveen Patnaik`s image and popularity, as well as welfare schemes like Rs 2 a kg of rice and many more pro-poor policies, the BJP and the Congress have alleged that it was mainly the tampering of the EVM machines through gross misuse of the official machinery which helped the BJD in a win that `has even surprised many winners from the BJD itself`.

Notwithstanding the allegations the fact remains that in Orissa the BJP was riding piggy-back on the BJD and once the divorce took place, it was clear that the BJP had no chance of a breather before the battle and as a result it fell under its own indecisiveness. And the faction-ridden Congress seemed merely banking on the break of alliance between the BJD and BJP than reunifying its own forces till the last moment thus allowing the BJD to punch a hole in the former`s vote bank in its strongholds like Koparut, Bolangir and Sambalpur etc.

Eyebrows are being raised as to how could the BJD take its polling percentage from 27.36 (in 2004) to above 39% this time? That too at a time when people all over the country showed an unequivocal approval for the Congress. However, Naveen is unfazed by such allegations and he, in his usual way, dismisses such queries with a grin and turns his back.

During his two earlier stints in Orissa, Naveen had remained an accomplished survivor by playing his cards carefully and keeping people guessing. In his first innings spanning from 2000 to 2004, his acts were confined to files full with populist schemes like `Women empowerment`, Pani Panchayat or anti-corruption drives etc.

But, most of such schemes became non-starters and subsequently, during his second term (2004 to 2009) the alliance showed dreams like an aggressive industrial agenda and an assertive administrative performance. A record number of MOUs were signed with outside investors taking Naveen to the top of the list of CMs in getting FDI for their states.

After the Kalinganagar killings in 2006, Naveen`s industrial agenda suffered a major set-back and the stigma of the failure of projetcts of Tata, Posco and of course Arcelor Mittal continues to haunt him. So his attempt to build a progressive image still remains grounded. Now that he has the Left on his side as pre-poll partners, who have been rejected by the voters virtually throughout the nation, Patnaik may have the third chance to pursue his industrial goals.

With BJP reduced to mere six MLAs in the house against 32 in 2004 and opening no account in the Lok sabha; and the Congress relegating itself to 27 from 38 in 2004 in the Assembly, Naveen is being perceived as a dread bowler with a fast ball while the ones at the striking end are tail-enders.

First Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - 21:11

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