Bhubaneswar: Once seen as a political novice and reluctant inheritor of his father`s mantle, Naveen Patnaik has metamorphosed into a master strategist to be Odisha Chief Minister fourth time in a row despite attacks over a series of scams and defying anti-incumbency theories.
As the 67-year-old BJD supremo puts it, the goal of the regional party he heads is to transform the dream of his legendary father late Biju Patnaik into reality.
"Only BJD can fulfill it and convert Odisha into an advanced state, keeping its "swabhiman" (pride) aloft and protecting people`s interest," asserts Patnaik, who was today formally elected the BJD legislature party leader.
The BJD president during the marathon poll campaign portrayed national parties like Congress and BJP as hostile to the interest of Odisha accusing them of shedding "crocodile trears" for the plight of the people of the state.
Patnaik`s presentation of BJD as a champion of the poor and downtrodden coupled with bitter allegation of central negligence did wonders to decimate both Congress and BJP which were made to bite the dust in the simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Odisha.
Unfazed by a series of scams including mining and chit fund scandals and charges of irregularities in rural job scheme MGNERGA, Naveen steered BJD to a landslide victory in the twin polls as the party won 117 of the 147 assembly seats and 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.
Patnaik, who has been dismissing charges of corruption
during BJD rule as baseless, said "Our victory in elections indicates good governance by BJD since 2000. Poll results have once again given strength to BJD to vigorously pursue its commitment to protect the interest of the state."
Initially dubbed as alien to Odisha politics when he was made to take over his father`s mantle in 1997, Patnaik effectively tackled party`s internal affairs and countered the opposition onslaught to raise the popularity of BJD in every successive elections.
Around 17 years down the line, Naveen, though considered a low profile leader, has emerged as a confident and mature politician to effectively checkmate his rivals.
Attempts by his opponents to dub his government as a bureaucrat-controlled administration appeared to have failed to leave an impact on people. "People`s verdict proved that BJD government`s transparent policies have been accepted by them," an overwhelmed Patnaik said after BJD`s victory.
Naveen demonstrated his ability to skillfully handle adverse situations when he nipped in the bud an alleged coup attempt to topple his government two years ago when the chief minister was on a visit abroad.
Once considered Naveen`s chief strategist and close confidante, bureaucrat-turned politician Pyari Mohan Mohapatra was not only removed from the party but also pushed into political oblivion in due course of time.
Not a single whisper of opposition could be heard in BJD corridors since then and the poll victory this time proved Naveen to be the undisputed leader.
As the entire party looked upon Naveen as their sole star
campaigner, the BJD chief undertook marathon election tours crisscrossing the state addressing rallies, taking part in road shows and interacting with people.
Despite being chief of a regional party, Naveen`s name was at one point mooted by many even for the prime ministerial job, but the BJD supremo has been keeping a low profile, largely confining himself to Odisha politics.
A writer who also dabbled in arts after completing education, Naveen was a founder-member of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
Though initially he all along stayed away from the state without showing any interest in politics, Naveen was inducted into politics after his father`s death in 1997. He first became a Lok Sabha member winning the by-election from Aska.
A year later Naveen floated Biju Janata Dal, a regional party named after his legendary father and entered into alliance with BJP to become a cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998. In 2000, when the BJD-BJP alliance was voted back to power in Odisha Patnaik was made chief minister. The combine retained power after 2004.
However, ties between BJD and BJP soured in the aftermath of Kandhamal riots 2008 and finally Naveen severed all alliance with the saffron party on the eve of the 2009 general elections.
The move not only strengthened Naveen`s secular credentials but also propelled BJD`s poll prospects in 2009 when it won 14 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 103 of the 147 seats in the Odisha assembly.
Since 2009, Naveen`s party witnessed many upheavals including an alleged coup bid but the BJD supremo overcame all adversities to finally register an unprecedented record victory this time as Odisha remained untouched by the Narendra Modi wave that swept the country.