Bhubaneswar: Naveen Patnaik may be the most inaccessible Chief Minister in the history of Odisha but he continues to be the darling of the masses as he prepares to rule the state for a fifth consecutive term having won a thumping majority. Already the longest-serving Chief Minister of Odisha, Patnaik weathered many a storm in his political career and remained undisputed leader despite not being fluent in the mother tongue of his state.
While he has withstood political storms over the years, he also faced off real storms like cyclones Phailin, Hudhud and the most recent Fani that ravaged the state. Patnaik stood tall by managing things very efficiently and earning accolades from international organisations like the United Nations and World Bank.
Patnaik assumed office in the year 2000, less than six months after the super cyclone that devastated the coastal state in October, 1999 killing over 10,000 people.
Once a political novice, Patnaik has grown into a ruthless and consummate politician, who would not hesitate to crush even a shadow of dissidence with an iron hand.
Suave yet cunning, Patnaik has shown the door to many stalwarts like Bijoy Mahapatra, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, Dilip Ray and Nalinikanta Mohanty, who could have thrown a possible challenge to him.
Before the 2019 election, he cut to size Baijayant Panda and Damodar Rout for going vocal against the government and the party.
He weathered many a storm, including an alleged ‘coup’ attempt by his advisor Pyari Mohan Mohapatra in 2012, when Patnaik was in the UK.
The TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor also helped him conquer the state continuously as he poached leaders from other parties before every election weakening the opposition’s spirit before entering into the electoral battle.
Patnaik, who has mastered the art of winning elections, has also bucked anti-incumbency, despite several controversies and multi-crore chit fund and mining scams.
Whenever the fire of a scam or controversy tried to engulf his image and the state government, Patnaik dropped the concerned minister thus earning an image of a ‘clean and honest’ administrator and politician.
He has so far shown the door to around 50 of his ministers in his 19-year rule for several reasons.
This image, coupled with his pro-people policies, has helped the 72-year-old bachelor to retain power for the last nearly two decades.
He has launched several populist schemes which have garnered votes from all sections of society.
His populist measures like Re 1 per kilo of rice, Rs 5 per meal scheme and Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme set his popularity chart soaring.
Besides, women have been BJD’s constant vote bank as the Chief Minister launched several schemes for them under the Mission Shakti programme.
As BJD leaders say, Patnaik has launched schemes for everyone from ‘the cradle to the grave’.
This has helped Patnaik to weather every election by improving his performance despite the Modi wave that swept other parts of the country in the 2014 and 2019 polls.