BHUBANESWAR: On Friday, yet another video of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik surfaced on social media – the latest in the series of clips this election season. Revealing a quirky side of the BJD supremo, the video shows him campaigning from his plush campaign bus, somewhere in the State. Seated in his comfy chair legs crossed with a microphone in hand, he concludes his request to the people to vote for BJD with a “namaskar” that stretches long enough to become “namaska...a...aa...aaa...r”.
Eyebrows raised and a smile with mischief writ all over, the CM appears to be having great fun on the move. There is a sense of self-assuredness and confidence around him. While the video breezing through WhatsApp, facebook, twitter and other SM platforms have become quite a rage, causing amusement and intrigue for the people, the sudden unravelling of the enigma that is Naveen Patnaik before the public has become a topic of hot discussion.
Right from letting the camera into his personal gym and revealing his workout sessions to the public eye to strolling on the corridor of Naveen Nivas with young boys and girls, explaining how the Centre’s holding back coal royalty is affecting the future of State’s youth – the uncharacteristic has become the characteristic of Naveen.
The Chief Minister is clearly cutting himself loose. In an all-out war at the hustings in 2019, he has consciously shed the assiduously cultivated image of an aloof politician and a statesman to dive into realpolitik. Having enjoyed an unassailable position in State politics over the last two decades, Naveen for the first time is faced with a stiff challenge and he is making sure he is up to it.
The cloud of 19-year-long anti-incumbency against his Government getting darker in 2019, he has deliberately made it a strategy to make the elections all about himself. For all the dissatisfaction and angst against BJD, Naveen is untouched. He is still as much loved, respected and looked up to as the leader by the people. By letting all the veils drop, he is angling at the very emotional connect with the electorate and attempting to convert their voting to an emotive issue.
He is reaching out to the voters in ways no one would have imagined with him. He is holding roadshows across the State, touching the nook and corner. Emerging out of his specially designed campaign vehicle and exhorting people with “Apana Mane Khusi Ta” (Are you happy) has become a trademark. In fact, no other party leader appears to be in the scene.
The new Naveen has also come forward with an uncharacteristic punch to hit out at political opponents, particularly the prime challenger BJP. With the saffron party perceivably gaining ground on the impact of Modi-wave in the State, he is putting himself up as the bulwark against the surge. He has transformed into an unsparingly vocal political leader ditching his reticent avatar.
In what was unthinkable even a month before the polls started, he has opened all fronts against the BJP, launching a strident attack on the party in his election speeches. Along with his road shows, he specifically raises the unkept promises of BJP-led Government at the Centre for the people of the particular region. He ridicules the BJP over its double-engine theory and points out that the party does not even have a Chief Minister face.
As the four-phase polls in Odisha have crossed halfway mark, Naveen has positioned himself directly against Modi, whom the BJP in Odisha is completely dependent on. And, he has already scored some brownie points. The incident of him allowing Election Commission officials to inspect his chopper stands in contrast to suspension of an official for attempting to do so with the PM. The video is playing out in the public.
The remaining 12 Lok Sabha and 84 Assembly seats will go to polls in the rest two phases in nine days. But the outcome of the Naveen-Modi fight will only be revealed on May 23.
The new Naveen will then be subject to discussions again.