VK Pandian retires from politics following party's defeat in Odisha elections

Ina video message, Pandian said his only intention to join politics was to assist Patnaik and that is why he did not contest the elections.
BJD leader VK Pandian.
BJD leader VK Pandian.File Photo | Express

BHUBANESWAR: Bureaucrat-turned-politician VK Pandian, Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik’s closest aide and confidant, on Sunday announced his retirement from active politics in what probably was one of the shortest political careers that lasted just seven months.

Five days after the regional party was voted out of power by a mandate that was overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP, Pandian took to social media platform Instagram to announce he was quitting active politics.

Pandian was under fire for the spectacular slump of the BJD in the 2024 elections which ended Naveen’s five terms as CM of the state. The BJP received a historic mandate, romping home with 20 out of 21 LS seats and 78 in the State Assembly. On the other hand, the regional party managed just 51 seats in the State Assembly besides drawing a blank in the Lok Sabha. After the poll debacle, he remained out of the public domain and was not seen in the party’s review meetings chaired by Naveen.

In his message, Pandian apologized to the party and the Biju Pariwar. “I am sorry if this campaign narrative against me has had a part to play in the BJD’s loss,” he said in his message.

Saying that he came to politics only to assist his mentor Naveen Patnaik ahead of the gruelling elections, the 49-year-old Pandian said, his only intent was to help the BJD supremo.

He said he had no desire whatsoever for a specific political post or power. “Therefore I was neither a candidate nor was holding any post in the party. It has been my shortcoming that I could not effectively counter the political narratives,” he said.

Apologising to the BJD and all the workers of the party, he said the only property he owns is the one he inherited from his grandparents. His property statement, he said, has remained unchanged in the last 24 years ever since he joined the Indian Administrative Service.

BJD leader VK Pandian.
Despite BJD’s loss, Naveen’s popularity remains unscathed in Odisha

He heaped praise on outgoing CM Naveen Patnaik for his grace, ethics and vision as well as commitment for the people of Odisha which Pandian said inspired him.

It was his overbearing presence in the BJD’s electioneering that had made him the target of the BJP which went after Pandian, calling him an ‘outsider’ as part of its Odia Asmita (Odia Pride) campaign. The saffron party had made the ‘outsider’ pitch its core campaign agenda and under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge, it went all out against Pandian accusing him of holding Naveen captive. The missing of Ratna Bhandar (treasury) keys of the Shree Jagannath Temple was also attributed to him.

The Tamil Nadu-born IAS officer of 2000 batch took voluntary retirement in October 2023 and was appointed as 5T Chairman. The next month, he officially joined the BJD. Though he did not take any official post in the party, Pandian emerged as the most powerful person in the party after Naveen, with every decision requiring his vetting.

In 2022, while he was still an IAS officer, Pandian toured the state extensively, touching every districts of Odisha which invited immense criticism from the Opposition.

As a young officer, he served in the Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Kalahandi and Ganjam districts of the state. After his stint as collector of Ganjam, the home turf of Naveen, he was appointed the private secretary of Naveen in 2011. A few years later, he started to wield immense power in the state administration even as Naveen was beginning to withdraw.

BJD leader VK Pandian.
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