Invincible at 71: Odisha in the Naveen era

Naveen Patnaik took over the reins of Odisha at a critical juncture. For his pro-people and reform-oriented governance, he is today the undisputed leader in the State and country.

Published: 16th October 2017 02:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2017 09:23 AM   |  A+A-

A young Naveen Patnaik with his parents Biju Patnaik and Gyan Patnaik

By Express News Service

The years between 1995 and 2000 were the turning points in Odisha’s political history. With political instability and natural disasters ripping off the State, it was looking for a way out of the situation. People were in search of a leader, who could arrest the stunted growth and put the State on a rapid development path. Naveen Patnaik took over the reins of Odisha at a critical juncture. For his pro-people and reform-oriented governance, he is today the undisputed leader in the State and country.

Turning Point

When Odisha’s mass leader Biju Patnaik passed away in 1997, the State witnessed a political vacuum. This was when Naveen emerged as an accepted leader, the real successor of Biju Patnaik.
Naveen began his political career as a Lok Sabha member from Aska. He was, of course, a novice in politics then. One who never tasted political waters stood up to the challenge. Not only did he begin his political journey, Naveen knew the need of the hour. He could also identify the barriers in the path of the economic growth.

Centre’s step-motherly treatment to Odisha’s interests rattled him. He realised that only a regional party can safeguard the interests of people and put the State on a growth path. This was when the Biju Janata Dal was established and Naveen devoted all his energy in leading the State.
In the initial phase, he forged an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and became a coalition partner in the NDA Government. Naveen became a Union Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government.

Development Era

The Super Cyclone of 1999 had devastated the State beyond imagination. The Government then was unable to handle the situation and the mass dissatisfaction coupled with political instability and economic devastation had led to a vulnerable situation. During this critical period, Naveen and his Biju Janata Dal turned out to be the silver lining. In the Assembly Election of 2000, people voted the party to power and Naveen was sworn in as the Chief Minister for the first time. Development in Odisha began from here.

The first task of his Government was to bring back smiles on the face of the poor and underprivileged. Naveen realised that unless the socially backward people are taken out of the morass, no development can take place. The Biju Janata Dal started the process by announcing several programmes for this section of the society. Infrastructure development also started with construction of roads, bridges and other similar projects.

The new Government worked with an aim of bringing Odisha out of the ignominy of a laggard State and make it a progressive one. Thus, began the ‘Naveen’ era.

New Political Journey

New development initiatives and administrative reforms were taken up simultaneously. Naveen ensured that all developmental benefits should go to the people at the grassroots. His determination and dedication paid him big dividends and Naveen won the 2004 Assembly Election with a thumping majority. He was sworn in as the Chief Minister for the second time in a row along with the BJP as the alliance partner. However, the alliance did not last long.

There was a breach of trust between the two partners. Making things worse, the 2008 Kandhamal riots brought a bad name for the State Government and Naveen. A secular Naveen could not withstand the forces that were dividing the State along communal lines. The alliance ended and the BJD fought the 2009 elections on its own. The electorate reposed their faith in Naveen this time as well. Naveen became the Chief Minister for the third time and he could prove his political might and pervasiveness even without the BJP. After forming the government for the third time, he took major steps to announce pro-people policies with focus on poverty alleviation. To ensure food security, he brought in the ‘Rice at 1 rupee a kg’ scheme.

Empowerment of women through ‘Mission Shakti’ and helping pregnant women and the children through the Mamata Yojana were the two other flagship programmes of the Naveen Patnaik Government. By establishing food canteens for the poor in urban areas, Odisha’s beloved Chief Minister became an example for others.

Development did not stop here. Tribal rights have been protected and there is a fair treatment towards forest produces. By ensuring stipends to tribal and Scheduled Caste children, he made them self-reliant.
The slew of development-oriented programmes has brought the Naveen Patnaik Government closer to people. His pro-people schemes helped him win election one after the other and the polls in 2014 broke all the previous records.

Simple Living, High Thinking

Even after becoming Chief Minister four times consecutively, Naveen continues to lead a simple life. Donning a white kurta and a pair of chappals, his simple living has become a point of discussion in the national media.

The Chief Minister has never tolerated corruption and has taken tough action against those involved in unfair practices. He has been harder towards those who have shown negligence while dealing with problems of the common man. This is also the reason why Naveen has been able to maintain his popularity and an unsullied image.

Naveen’s administrative acumen and the style of governance has become a benchmark. Other leaders are, in fact, measured by this yardstick.


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